Obama to deliver Rutgers commencement address — his last as president
President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address to the Rutgers University class of 2016, which will be his final graduation speech as president.
The state school, celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, will hold commencement on Sunday, May 15, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway. About 12,000 graduates from 22 academic units from Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences will receive their degrees.
“We are delighted that President Obama has chosen to address our graduates at this year’s historic commencement,” said Rutgers University President Robert Barchi in a statement.
Barchi said it was an "enthusiastic effort" by Rutgers students, staff, faculty and alumni and the state's congressional delegation that convinced Obama to attend. Obama is the first sitting president to deliver a Rutgers commencement. Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor said the White House, in accepting the invitation, cited that enthusiasm of the effort and the school's 250th anniversary celebration as the main reasons Obama decided to attend.
Dwight Eisenhower spoke at Rutgers before he was president and Abraham Lincoln spoke at a nearby train station on his way to Washington D.C. to be inaugurated in 1861 according to Trevor. President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rutgers as did Bill Clinton while in office.
Trevor said the announcement created a tremendous amount of "excitement and enthusiasm" throughout the Rutgers community. "We're really looking forward to it. It's going to be a great day."
During a Statehouse press conference on Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie said it was a "great honor" for the state to have Obama the address. "I thank the president for his willingness to come to New Jersey and honor Rutgers," said Christie. Congressman Frank Pallone in a tweet said he was "so proud" about the news. “I am thrilled that President Obama will take part in the celebration of the enormous contributions that Rutgers has made to New Jersey and our country over the last 250 years,” said the 14-term Democrat in a statement.
Journalist Bill Moyers will also deliver a commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate degree in law.
About 52,000 are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be held rain or shine.
Obama has delivered about three or so commencement addresses every year during his presidency.
In 2009, he spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy, Arizona State University and University of Notre Dame.
In 2010 he spoke at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Hampton University, Carnegie Mellon University and Kalamazoo Central High School.
In 2011 he spoke at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, Miami Dade College and Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis.
In 2012 he spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Barnard College and Joplin High School in Missouri.
In 2013 he spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Ohio State University and Morehouse College.
In 2014, he spoke at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, University of California-Irvine, and Worcester Tech High School in Massachusetts.
Last year he spoke at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota. The president is delivering commencement addresses this year at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and Howard University in Washington D.C., according to Trevor.
Joe Cutter contributed to this report.