The MSU Convocation on Friday, May 5, was one for Spartan history. It marked the appearance of President Bill Clinton, the first sitting president in 88 years to speak to an MSU graduating class. Spartan Stadium was filled by a sparkling sea of green caps and gowns worn by some 6,500 graduating students while some 50,000 parents and friends, along with federal agents and the media, filled the stands. It was a festive mood, with the sun breaking through during the processional march. Moments later, a thunderous cheer and ovation broke out when President Clinton emerged and made his way to the stage. The MSU Wind Symphony, led by John Whitwell, played Ruffles and Flourishes and Hail To The Chief. Clinton listened attentively to an inspiring speech by Ingrid Saunders Jones, a vice president with Coca-Cola Co. Wearing a blue robe with black stripes, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, one of five honorary doctorates presented by MSU this spring. ‘Maybe I will get more respect in Washington now,’ Clinton mused, adding to great applause, ‘Regardless, I now know who I’m supposed to root for in the Big 10.’ In his speech, televised nationally by C-SPAN, Clinton told graduates they face ‘a future of unlimited possibilities’ and challenged them to face the new challenges and problems. He noted, ‘You who graduate today will have the chance to live in the most exciting, the most prosperous, the most diverse and interesting world in the entire history of humanity.’ Clinton made a rousing defense of freedom of political speech and condemned the extremists who would subvert that process through violence. He also countered the negative publicity given to Michigan for having some links to an alleged conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing. ‘This is the real Michigan in this stadium today,’ he said. ‘The real Michigan is Michigan State. It’s the astonishing revival of the automobile industry . . . Real Michigan is Kellogg’s corn flakes and the best cherries in the world. The real Michigan is the Great Lakes and the U.P.’ An avid college basketball fan, Clinton congratulated retiring coach Jud Heathcote and also mentioned last year’s speaker, fellow Arkansan and MSU Distinguished Alumnus Ernest Green of the ‘Little Rock Nine.’ Following the festivities, which included several speeches by select students, Clinton stayed on to greet students, faculty and other guests attending the convocation. It was an exciting and historic moment in MSU’s Spring 1995 Commencement activities. Source : Bob Bao, “Clinton Addresses MSU’s 1995 Convocation Spring 1995”, MSU Alumni Association Magazine, Spring 1995.
President Clinton delivering the commencement address to graduates of Michigan State University on May 5, 1995.