Letter-Writing Effort Aims to Have Obama Speak on Campus

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ASUC officials reported a strong start in a letter-writing campaign launched Wednesday that aims to bring President Barack Obama to speak on campus next semester.

The campaign, called "10,000 for Obama," seeks to convince the president to come to campus by delivering 10,000 letters from students to the White House by January next year, the one-year anniversary of Obama's inauguration, which was viewed live by more than 10,000 people on Sproul Plaza.

According to ASUC President Will Smelko, the intent is to have the president come speak about public education, especially given recent state budget cuts­­-totaling $150 million to the campus-and the Sept. 24 student walkout.

"There was so much turnout and support for him during the election," Smelko said. "It would be just a fantastic opportunity."

The letter-writing campaign is modeled after a successful drive at UC Merced, which resulted in first lady Michelle Obama coming to speak at their commencement ceremony last semester.

Organizers are publicizing the campaign by tabling on the plaza,

networking with campus groups and through word of mouth.

Katie Nelson, a member of the ASUC Office of the President's Speakers Series team, said that 200 letters have already been submitted by students, a rate that is on track to meet their goal by January, with the hope that Obama will agree to come between Cal Day and final exams.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Simone Lang, director of the Speakers Series, a visit by Obama would galvanize state legislators and Californians about the current state of the UC system.

"Berkeley has been a leader in trying to fight for the rights of public education," Lang said. "We need to set the agenda on public education ... and make it visible on the national level."

ASUC Senator Jonathan Gaurano, who authored a bill funding the effort, said while it is uncertain if Obama will respond to the offer, it is still worthwhile.

"I understand that (Obama) is a very busy man," Gaurano said. "I believe it's not wasting the president's time. If he did come, it would be an investment in spreading public education awareness. President Obama has a huge voice-when he speaks, people listen."


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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