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 Friday, May 23, 2008

Kennedy Asks Obama to Replace Him at Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony

  By Jamie Muro of News Channel 8.
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With the recent diagnosis of a brain tumor, Sen. Ted Kennedy will not be speaking as scheduled at the commencement ceremony at Wesleyan University. Sen. Barack Obama will take his place at this Sunday's event.

Preparation for Wesleyan's 176th commencement had the usual fanfare. The United States Secret Service descended upon campus as fast as news spread that a presidential candidate would be making the commencement address.

"People knew in an instant," John Gold, a Wesleyan senior, said. "Text messages, email, it's hard to keep a secret from college students."

Senator Ted Kennedy was originally slated to speak to graduates. But, after Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, Kennedy asked Senator Barack Obama to fill in.

"It's a tragedy and all the best to Senator Kennedy. At the same time, it's a prestigious speaker we have coming, very happy for the school, looking forward to a powerful speech, heard he's a powerful in person, looking forward to some inspiration, some words of wisdom as we leave,"

That sentiment was echoed by both alums. "I can't think of a better pinch hitter," Tim Hill, Wesleyan alumni, said. And future alums, like Mike Pernick, said, "They get to hear one of the great leaders of our country speak."

The surprise visit also means more security, more media and more people that will be swelling -- not just the small campus of Wesleyan, but the humble city of Middletown.

"It's something that's been handled before, we're glad to have him here," Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giulliano said. "We can put on a good face for anyone here in Middletown."

So, a quiet campus will soon glow in the national spotlight. And while the senator is known as a dynamic speaker, one graduate has some words of advice for a career politician. "I'd like an inspirational speech, a few words of wisdom, but keep it short -- my advice to Senator Obama!"

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