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What will Michelle Obama tell Calif. graduates? Chances are at least one joke

May 16, 2009 |  1:17 pm

It’s commencement season, and for officeholders that often means donning a cap and gown and delivering remarks to inspire and motivate the graduates.

Fine. But at The Ticket we confess to enjoying another hallmark of commence addresses: the jokes.

Consider President Obama and Arizona State University, where he addressed graduates Wednesday.  Controversy had been brewing for weeks over the university’s decision not to award him an honorary degree. Why? He hadn’t accomplished enough in life yet. Obama addressed this head on, sort of:

Now, before I begin, I’d like to clear the air about that little controversy everyone was talking about a few weeks back. I have to tell you, I really thought it was much ado about nothing, although I think we all learned an important lesson. I learned to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket. And your university president and Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger piled on joke after joke when he spoke at USC:

Now, of course, people ask me all the time, they say to me, "What is the secret to success?" And I give them always the short version. I say, "Number one, come to America. Number two, work your butt off. And number three, marry a Kennedy."

That’s why we’re all waiting to hear what jokes -- if any -- will be delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama when she speaks, probably within the hour, at UC Merced’s very first commencement. Our colleague Larry Gordon reports from the scene:

More than 12,000 seats and a temporary stage are set up in an outdoor grassy amphitheater area under the hot sun of the San Joaquin Valley for the 1:30 p.m. ceremony. Police and security guards are circling in cars, on bicycles and on foot as the graduates and their families are arriving to pick up their caps and gowns and greet classmates

Gordon also notes that:

Administrators and students say that Obama's visit, her only commencement speech to a college class this year, will bring much-needed positive attention to a school that has suffered from funding shortages and environmental challenges to its growth. "Not everybody in the state of California, much less the rest of country, knows where UC Merced is," said Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs. The Obama speech, she said, will change that.

Keep watch at latimes.com for a full report on her remarks. And if you want to see what her husband and the Terminator told the graduates this week, click here for Obama, and here for Schwarzenegger. (The Ticket, of course, has the transcripts.) You’ll find some policy, some inspiration, even a little wisdom. And, thankfully, a little humor too.

-- Steve Padilla 

All joking aside, you can click here to get automatic Twitter alerts of every new Ticket item. Or follow us now  @latimestot

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