Letter from proud mother brings First Lady to UNI - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Letter from proud mother brings First Lady to UNI

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- First Lady Michelle Obama is returning to Iowa for the first time in nearly four years. This May, the President's wife will address the University of Northern Iowa graduating class.

The visit comes just a few months before Iowa caucus season, but even state republican leaders note, this is not about politics, it's about honoring students as they mark a milestone in their lives.

It all started with a letter. In June, a proud mother, Ann Geneva, wrote to President Obama asking him to speak at her son Adam's graduation. With a double major in business and finance, you can understand why Adam's mother is so proud of her future graduate. But most mom's give their kids a hug, and maybe even some money, they don't usually ask the president to speak at their commencement.

"Wow, why did you do that?" Adam asked his mother when she told him about the note."She's like, oh, just to see what happened."

Around Christmas, his family received a phone call. The lucky person to answer?

"It was actually my mom," said Adam. "She was like, that was just the White House that called. I was like, really? Because we pretty much forgot about it because we'd sent it six months earlier."

Adam had an idea that the First Lady was considering speaking at UNI's 2011 Commencement. But you can imagine the reaction on campus when the decision became final.

"Most of us received the announcement an hour or so before class, so I think it was just trying to digest that," noted Chris Larimer, a Political Science Professor.

"I called my mom and she was like what? Are you serious? And she was really shocked. She was like, we're definitely going, get as many tickets as you can!" said graduating senior Claire Bernhard.

The students are looking forward to an inspirational, politics-free speech, one they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

"Whenever you go to graduation, you always look at graduation speakers. And we'll always have this. We'll always be able to say, the First Lady came to UNI's graduation. And I think that's really cool," said Molly Grady, also graduating in May.

But Dr. Ben Allen, President of UNI, said the day will focus on the students.

"One of the things we appreciated from our conversations with the staff is that they said, if you have student speakers -- as you know we have -- keep those speakers. Because the focus really is on the students. We're just very fortunate this year to have the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to join us," he said.

Adam isn't quite sure what he's going to say when he meets Michelle Obama. But he does know what he'll say to his mom -- a simple thank you.

"I'm just excited for my family to meet her," said Adam.

UNI usually splits commencement up into three ceremonies. This year, all 1,900 graduates will walk together. They're each allowed eight guests, and the ceremony is expected to last more than two and a half hours.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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