Vida En El Valle Blogs: The Latin voice of the central valley.Vida en el Valle Blogs The Latin voice of the central valley

Juan Esparza Rebecca Plevin Daniel Cásarez Olivia Ruiz Irene Rodriguez Cynthia Moreno Community Health Fellowship

Covering UC Merced graduation… A HOT experience!avatar

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On Saturday afternoon, I covered the University of California, Merced’s first full graduation ceremony, which featured First Lady Michelle Obama as the keynote speaker. An hour or so before the ceremony began, I sent my family a text message from the media area: “I’m part of the White House Press Pool!”

“Cool!” my parents and sister replied. It was an awesome experience to cover the first lady’s first commencement speech – but COOL is one thing the experience was not. Hot – blazing hot – is more like it.

I showed up at UC Merced early that morning in my idea of a hot-weather outfit: a white tank top and a lightweight skirt. As soon as I saw more experienced members of the media arrive wearing white long-sleeve shirts with collars, I knew I was in trouble.

AGUA! Ushers handed out free bottles of water during the event.

AGUA! Ushers handed out free bottles of water during the event.

That realization intensified when the Secret Service led us to the media area, hours before the ceremony began. There was no shade, anywhere, in the entire field where the ceremony was held. As I stood in the media area, looking for a place to sit, a fellow journalist pointed out that my toes were already burning. That’s when I knew I was really in trouble.

Umbrellas were not allowed at the ceremony (a security regulation, I guess) but there was one giant umbrella in the media area, shading a guy who was videotaping the event. I weaseled my way under the umbrella and then attempted to befriend every cameraman in the area, in the hopes that they would let me park myself in the shade for the entire event.

My plan worked! Thankfully, between standing in the shade for the event and using one of those hand-held fans that mist water (thanks, Editor!) – I stayed relatively cool throughout the afternoon.

I was even more grateful for my luck as I looked out at the thousands of commencement spectators, many of whom had constructed hats out of boxes, newspapers, folders, and scarves. It was survival of the fittest out there – it didn’t matter how ridiculous people looked, as long as their shoulders, necks, and faces were shaded from the broiling sun.

When it's 97 degrees, wearing a box is all the rage. I'm serious.

When it's 97 degrees, wearing a box is all the rage. I'm serious.

The ceremony began around 1:30 p.m., and I’m willing to bet that around that time, the day’s temperature had reached its peak, at 97 degrees. Ushers continued to pass out water during the ceremony, graduates stripped off their black robes to listen to the ceremony speakers, and EMT’s were ready with wheelchairs to rescue people from the heat.

But EVEN with all that, UC Merced’s first full commencement ceremony was a great event. I thought Obama did a great job of personalizing her speech for the Merced graduates, and it was great just to see her in the Valley.

Overall, it was a great day for UC Merced and for the Valley. Just don’t call it cool!



Photos by Daniel Cásarez of Vida en el Valle

Written by Rebecca Plevin

May 19th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

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