University’s prestige reflected in Obama rally

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.

Jovanna Tosello| Daily Trojan

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.

5 replies
  1. University with Selectivity as Criteron
    University with Selectivity as Criteron says:

    I think not. I’d rather see USC morph into the likes of MIT or Caltech. Yeah yeah, I know. SC’s a liberal arts school. But I hope Viterbi and Keck become even more competitive and cutthroat. But yep, we need students, alumni, and whoever engages in the academics here, to parlay their liberal arts/humanities degrees into the soft “people skills” that bring order to society. Eggheads = automatons, right?

  2. Rich Salas
    Rich Salas says:

    Nothing can be gained by Obamas visit, as it is just a pony show. He is as danger to the succes of our contry, as is Brown and Boxer. I am ok with his visit as long as a Conservative politician visits as well, AND the far left liberals give the same respect Obama got from the conservatives, which we all know wont happen, because the far left loons are tasteless, juvenile, and intolerant of others views.

  3. Clark Fonda
    Clark Fonda says:

    I’m all for feel-good USC articles, but this visit by the President has absolutely nothing to do with USC or a rising trend in USC’s prestige. USC’s campus conveniently provides an accessible forum in Los Angeles for the President to rally voters for the upcoming election. Democrats across the country are concerned that they will lose a significant amount of the first-time voters they galvanized in 2008, and Los Angeles holds high populations of a variety of demographics that the Democrats are trying to re-target for this election cycle. Think about some of the current hot topic issues that appeal to specific Los Angeles demographics – for example Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Arizona’s new immigration law. Not to mention the youth vote that the Democrats are worried about losing, and that college campuses are prime venues for recruiting young voters and attracting large crowds. USC, not a campus known for its political activism, contains a significant amount of potential voters that the Democrats were likely able to rally back in 2008 with President Obama on the ticket, but maybe not in 2010. If anything, this visit proves that the Democrats are so concerned with their party’s voter turnout prospects for this election cycle that they feel compelled to deploy the President of the United States to a very blue city within a very blue state to rally sluggish voters from their party.

    USC’s only part in this equation is that it has a nice campus in the heart of LA.

    Arlington, VA
    USC ’07

  4. Jack Henzie
    Jack Henzie says:

    Good grief! Please ask Stephen Zelezny never again to take up perfectly good space in the Daily Trojan with such vapid meanderings as this. Little Barry’s expense-paid-by-taxpayers trip is for the sole purpose of promoting the political careers of Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown, two of California’s most prominent embarrassments. Certainly Zelezny has homework or something worthy to take up his time, don’t you reckon?

    Fight On!

    Journ ’58

  5. Locke
    Locke says:

    He’s at the University of Washington today. Earlier this year he was at another highly-ranked educational institution called Savannah Technical College. So, USC, I wouldn’t pat myself on the back too much over this one.

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