MSU community ready to welcome President Obama

Like Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, only in phone call and email form, a few select students have received invitations to see President Barack Obama sign the new farm bill into law Friday afternoon on campus.

Excitement was universal among all those who received invitations. Tyler Clifford, president of the Black Student Alliance, said he woke up Thursday morning to an invitation in his email inbox. Clifford said when he saw the email, he yelped with joy.

“That kind of thing makes you feel really good,” Clifford said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Clifford said he hoped the president also would address violence on college campuses, in light of the recent death of MSU student Dominique Nolff.

The Department of Student Life extended an invitation via email to 16 students as of Thursday evening, although it is not clear exactly how many students have been invited in total.

Additional students have signed up as volunteers to work the event, and attended a training session Thursday evening.

Geography sophomore Jessica Hernandez also was invited to the equine performance center on Friday. Her parents grew up in Mexico but moved to California, where she was born. They worked agricultural and factory jobs for much of her childhood.

As a freshman, she was a scholar in the College Assistance Migrant Program Scholars Initiative at MSU, which provides assistance to migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families. She also is active in groups on and off-campus, and has landed a number of competitive internships.

“I feel so privileged in the sense that I am able to do so many things and have so many opportunities,” Hernandez said. “I would want to see other people succeed as well and give others opportunities because not every person that comes here illegally is of that personage.”

Hernandez said she hopes the president will address immigration reform as well as college affordability for students from immigrant families.

East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett is also on the guest list, along with members of the East Lansing City Council, although some will not be present because of work conflicts, he said.

It is not clear whether faculty or students from the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources will be in attendance. College officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Pat Dyer-Deckrow, advisor for the North American Indigenous Student Organization, said the student group had received a single invitation to the event, but had not decided whether to attend. She said the group might choose not to attend the bill’s signing because of cuts to the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

Many of the students invited are involved in life on campus, especially in leadership roles. At least two ASMSU representatives were invited to the bill signing, which will take place at Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center.

Political science professor Paul Abramson said the location was likely chosen as a favor to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Stabenow is the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and an MSU alumna. Still, Abramson said, the president’s visit will have little effect on Stabenow’s political career.

“There’s a long time between now and the midterm elections,” Abramson said. “(Stabenow) was re-elected in 2012. … This has almost no effect.”

Obama also will meet with area farmers to discuss immigration reform, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau. But Abramson said the president will be hard-pressed to pass major legislation in his final years in office.

“I think given this Congress, (Obama’s) unlikely to achieve very much,” Abramson said.

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