Like many other typical USC students, Jason Duong, a senior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention studies, was at Stanford earlier this month enjoying the Weekender.
But while there, he received a call that was anything but typical.
“I got a call from university officials telling me that the Obama administration was coming to campus,” Duong said.
As university administrators, faculty, students and all of Los Angeles now knows, President Barack Obama will be holding a rally Friday in Alumni Park. The Political Student Assembly, of which Duong is the executive director, will be hosting the event with one of the president’s chief coalitions, Organizing for America.
Although this event will prompt many of us to put aside our academic and social commitments for a few hours to hear the president speak, we might also be asking ourselves: Why USC?
The campus selection was not random. Obama’s decision to speak at our school is a testament to the university’s increasing global reputation, diverse makeup and location within one of the nation’s major urban centers.
“I feel that USC has been getting a huge amount of prestige over the years — why not take advantage?” Duong said. “It’s known worldwide and it’s the best place to be.”
As USC continues to move up in the college rankings — reflected in our impressive academic prowess, strong network and community involvement — we continue to attract not only competitive students but also renowned leaders.
Times have changed since Obama last spoke as a U.S. Senator in 2006.
Not only will Obama return to campus as commander in chief, but he will be revisiting an entirely different university atmosphere.
Students now have a unique opportunity to show the president how far we have come in just four years.
The chief priority should be to have as many students as possible to attend the rally, regardless of our political ideologies.
“We are working with Organizing for America to reach out to all students,” Duong said. “We are trying to get verbal confirmations so that people will come out.”
But our leaders can only do so much to demonstrate our university’s fervor. Students have the opportunity to set an example — proving that this is the university where different values are effectively channeled through effective discussion.
Many students that are apathetic toward politics might view this rally as irrelevant. Some might say they are too busy or too fed up with politics to attend — which is a mistake.
Admittedly, our political arena today is often more divisive than uplifting. Heated debates, splits over controversial issues and mudslinging are more common than are unifying speeches.
This rally could help infuse the civic activism that has been missing in our universities since the 2008 presidential election.
“We are pushing for activism on campus,” Duong said. “I feel that bringing the president will provide momentum.”
For students, this rally ultimately isn’t about politics or picking one side over another. It’s about us — as diverse a college population as they come — leading the way in a new age of civic discourse.
Let’s send a message to the high school seniors out there watching this rally on the Internet. Let them see a diverse and involved student body, observing the president’s viewpoints with open minds.
“I feel we’ve got a good momentum going. This just adds on to that,” Duong said. “It’s phenomenal. This will not only attract students from all backgrounds, but it is more of an encouragement for them to consider USC when they apply for college.”
For all we know, one of these prospective students might end up in Duong’s position in a few years — a student who finds himself with an opportunity to help host the president of the United States.
May USC continue to be a hotbed for civic discourse, reining in our nation’s top leaders for years to come.
Stephen Zelezny is a sophomore majoring in public relations. His column, “USC on the Move,” runs Thursdays.