University of Illinois students petition former President Obama to be 2017 Commencement speaker

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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois– Less than a week after leaving office, former President Obama is already being courted for a new job: commencement speaker.

University of Illinois Student Body President Ronald Lewis wrote and sent a letter to Obama, inviting him to serve as speaker for the Spring 2017 Commencement.

Now, there’s a petition to invite the former president to speak. As of January 26th, it’s less than 200 signatures away from its goal: 1,500 supporters.

The petition reads, “As Illinois celebrates its 150th birthday, who else can better represent Illini values than the 44th president Barack Obama. Help tell Barack Obama that we want him to be our 2017 Commencement Speaker.”

Students, alumni, and the public are also encouraged to discuss the topic, using the hashtag: #ILLINOISinvitesObama. There’s even a cardboard cutout of the President on display in the school’s Union, and a sign encouraging students to snap a picture with it.


There hasn’t been any response yet from President Obama, but STAY TUNED!


Here’s the original transcript of what Student Body President Ronald Lewis had to say in his letter to Obama:

Dear President Obama,

My name is Ronald Lewis and I serve as the Student Body President at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. First and foremost, I would like to thank you for all that you have done for America in the past eight years. From helping students repay loans to always being an advocate for higher education, your impact on the U.S. has been substantial. The impact that you have been able to make on our country and your willingness to lead is why I would like to formally invite you to be our speaker for the Spring 2017 Commencement at the University of Illinois.

In the state of Illinois, many students feel that the education system as a whole is undervalued as many schools have received very little financial support over the past two years by the government. However, the University of Illinois has been doing all that we can to ensure that we make the student experience a priority by hiring some of the best faculty and personnel across the country. We have hired our most diverse administrators and faculty members as of yet by hiring our first African American Chancellor (Dr. Robert Jones) and one of the best coaches of all time in Lovie Smith. However, we understand that even these great hires do not mean that our work is done. We want to make sure that every student understands the investment that the University is willing to make to ensure that we value their impact and their time here at the University.

From recent years, we’ve had many great commencement speakers who are notable alumni of the University of Illinois. However, with so much transition going on within our University and our country, we think that you would be the best speaker to talk about your story and how it is important for students to continue to value education. Although many students feel that the state does not place education as a priority, the leaders of the University of Illinois understand that it is our duty to help them see the power that they hold by being college graduates from a great institution.

Now more than ever, graduates of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign need to know that their voice matters. If you are willing to accept our invitation and be the speaker at the Spring 2017 Commencement, we know that you would make an impact on the lives of not only the people that graduate, but the more than 40,000 students that make up our University. Thank you for your consideration.


Ronald Lewis, Student Body President at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign