Obama, Graduation Through Klarman’s Lens

A photo essay on University of Michigan's commencement

Local photographer Myra Klarman captured these images for The Chronicle of the May 1 University of Michigan commencement exercises at Michigan Stadium.

Jennifer Granholm, Barack Obama, Mary Sue Coleman

U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on the left and University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman on the right.

University of Michigan students celebrate their graduation

University of Michigan students celebrate their graduation.

University of Michigan student at May 1 commencement

A University of Michigan student at the May 1 commencement.

Assorted footwear worn by University of Michigan students at graduation

Assorted footwear worn by University of Michigan students at graduation reflected the predicted thundershowers – which did dump a lot of water on the stadium in the early morning hours. But by the time commencement ceremonies began at 11 a.m., the severe weather was past.

The crowd at Michigan Stadium in rain ponchos.

The crowd at Michigan Stadium in rain ponchos.

Security staff overlooking Michigan Stadium during commencement

Security staff overlooking Michigan Stadium during commencement.

The crowd at Michigan Stadium attending graduation ceremonies

The crowd at Michigan Stadium attending Saturday's graduation ceremonies. See anyone you know?

Mortar board with "NOBAMA"

Not everyone in the crowd was an Obama supporter.

A graduating UM student listens to Barack Obama's speech.

Students celebrate graduation

One of the large screens mounted at Michigan Stadium gave students a chance to see themselves live on TV.

Students taking photos of each other

Getting a good photo sometimes requires standing out in the crowd.

Broadcast booth for the Big Ten Network

The broadcast booth for the Big Ten Network. Seated at right is Ken Fischer, president of the University Musical Society. Seated to the left is Huel Perkins, a Fox 2 News anchor.

Students taking photos of Obama

Students did their best to snag photos of Obama.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama, with his honorary doctoral hood stylishly askew.

On Sunday, see more commencement photos on Myra Klarman’s blog, Relish.


  1. By Lesa
    May 1, 2010 at 9:13 pm | permalink

    Myra, you rock! These are amazing. Thanks for being our up-close eyes!

  2. By Karen Farmer
    May 2, 2010 at 6:50 am | permalink

    Myra – AMAZING shots! You DO rock!!

  3. By amalia brin
    May 2, 2010 at 11:10 am | permalink

    Thank you pandering politicians for turning a celebration of accomplishments into a (very uncomfortable and mismanaged)political event. It’s nice to know I’ll think back on my son’s graduation and remember the self serving speeches, overbearing crowds and police state atmosphere of yesterday’s commencement.

  4. By Brad
    May 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm | permalink

    As much of an honor to be in the presence of a president as it was when George HW Bush spoke. We do not need to agree with our politicians to recognize the importance of their positions. Thank you Myra for capturing all of that in these amazing photos.

  5. By annarbored
    May 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm | permalink

    What marvelous photos; what a marvelous office the Presidency is; and a great (though capable of error) system of Federal Government we have. I am not sure Amalia Brin above was listening to our Commander-in-Chief when he talked of civility in political discourse. But I was, so I will not call her comment sour or lacking the generosity this site asks for. Neither will I detail the reasons for the high security, some of which are related to home grown lack of balance and perspective, leading to an unprecedented level of threats to the President from before he was even in office.

  6. May 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm | permalink

    Amalia, I wonder what your son thinks of his graduation ceremony and whether your focus on the negatives (in your mind) of the event in your future rememberances of it will overshadow the reality of his experience. Is your comment here (for what purpose?) the beginning of years of suffering around this event?

    Even if your son shares your perspective, there is a way that you (and he) can see how the unfolding of events yesterday were done for you rather than to you. If you don’t know how, this website can help: [link].

  7. May 2, 2010 at 4:09 pm | permalink

    Everyone I talked to at the Ceremony, parents and graduates alike, was exhilarated by the event and, in particular, by the President’s appearance and extremely inspirational speech. He said exactly what needed to be said–civility and open-mindedness in public discourse are, most unfortunately, sorely lacking nowadays. Several people I spoke with also expressed gratitude for the protection provided him in this very well-organized event–it made us all feel safer.

  8. By Jason Smith
    May 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm | permalink

    Amalia, why would you even go to commencement? If you didn’t want to be bothered with a possible political comments and overbearing crowds, stay home. It makes no sense if you expected the worse to submit yourself to this. You would have done better by spending your day in Clarkston. LOL

  9. By Parker
    May 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm | permalink

    Honored (I thought) to have the POTUS speak at our daughter’s graduation. Expected the worst about getting into the “big house”, but that was not going to ruin this glorious day for us.

    When near 33% of the stadium participants (en-masse) started leaving the stadium after the POTUS’s speech ended, to me – this was not only disrespectful to the students and their families – but further underscored that the POTUS’s presence here at UM was not to honor the achievements of our sons and daughters, but to have the opportunity to put out political points and garner 33,000 extra and non-related-event cheers at the very least.

    This day was not about the POTUS – this was supposed to be about honoring our hard-working sons and daughters. I am honored that the POTUS spoke at my daughter’s UM graduation – but I am no longer a supporter. Some things should remain sacred/neutral and un-related to political agendas. This has been a wake-up call to me about what is more important to the POTUS vs. inspiring and giving praise for our son’s and daughter’s commitments and achievements. This speech gave them nothing of that – and only served to put all of these achievements below his political talking points. How sad is that.

  10. By Tricia
    May 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm | permalink

    Great photos, Myra! I’m surprised you didn’t capture more fashionable rain boots – given how many women wear them around campus on a rainy day I thought they were footwear of choice!

    Parker, I agree with you that people shouldn’t have started leaving at the end of the speech. That is disrespectful, and shows that those particular people were only there for Obama. But I bet there were a number of people there just to hear Larry Page (Google) when he spoke, and similarly for any other speaker. And in a ceremony where graduates are recognized by name (not just by college/unit, as at UM), people occasionally leave when their graduate has crossed the stage. It happens. Rude people exist.

    However, I question your claim that graduation speeches are supposed to be all about giving praise for the graduates’ commitments and achievements. I have multiple degrees from 3 universities, and attended 2 ceremonies at UM (Rackham’s and my unit). Every single speaker started out with a “you all rock” statement and then moved into a “you can do great things in the world by doing X”, where X was directly related to their own agenda (e.g. their mode of educational reform, their view of the business world, whatever). Very few speakers are in the mode of the fake Kurt Vonnegut speech (“wear sunscreen, get enough calcium”). People are invited to speak because they have a point of view.

  11. By Parker
    May 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm | permalink


    Because you had a need to say: “I question your claim…” – just supports it all the more. I’m happy for you that you have “multiple degrees”, but your need to cite your “degrees” as a way to covertly/intentionally discredit any one else’s opinion on the ceremony is disingenuous and comes across as plainly dismissive.

    If the goal is to lesson the viability of anyone’s opinion – keep at it, as there may be another degree for you to snag in the future.

  12. By Rod Johnson
    May 4, 2010 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Wow, a pretty hostile reaction to a respectful comment. I thought her point was simply that she’s attended several commencement ceremonies and so has a non-trivial sample to generalize from. No one who has gotten an advanced degree could be under the illusion that you have to be especially smart to do that. :)

  13. By Adrienne
    May 5, 2010 at 7:46 am | permalink

    Bringing the comments back to the photos, these are fabulous, bright and vivid, and a terrific record of a very special event.

    And Rod, I agree, thanks for your kind defense of Tricia. If only we could keep things civil and positive, especially in celebration of this tremendous occasion.

  14. By Rod Johnson
    May 5, 2010 at 9:17 am | permalink

    I have to say, though, I can empathize with the parents here. You invest 4 (5, 6) years of income and emotion in your child’s education, and you’re looking forward to commencement as a celebration of their achievement… and then you see your child upstaged by a media circus. Those of us who experienced this as mainly “Obama’s visit to Ann Arbor” or “a coup for the University” may not be feeling this disappointment. And, especially in the current climate of intense distrust of politics, if you tend to see the speech as “political talking points,” you may see very little value as compensation for the hassle and upstaging. But in town there seems to be this feeling that no one want to hear about your disappointment, just be happy that this “tremendous occasion” (no offense, Adrienne) happened. It must be frustrating.