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Nobodies are the New Somebodies

obamamichelle1At seminar last fall I heard Guy Kawasaki announce that we live in an era where “nobodies are the new somebodies.” With technology making expression easier and more accessible, we are seeing high school outcasts become Internet phenomenon’s and global corporations chase YouTube stars for product endorsements. Nowhere is there a better example of a bunch of nobody’s kicking creative booty than the U.C. Merced students who snagged Michelle Obama as the 2009 commencement speaker for their first graduating class.

U.C. Merced?

I work at U.C. Irvine, my daughter goes to UCLA, and despite this close contact with the system, I’d never noticed a U.C. Merced.

Precisely. But now?

Front page news.

Despite only four years in existence,  a group of imaginative students found a way to turn their campus–located in an area I’ve always found too hot to visit– into an overnight sensation. (Even though overnight sensations usually require years of hard work, creativity, Jupiter aligning with Mars, and Oprah. These guys did it without the latter.)

letter-writingIf you didn’t read the paper today (and if you are sensitive to gloom I support your news detox)…a group of U.C. Merced students launched a “Dear Michelle” letter writing campaign that charmed and moved Mrs. Obama enough for her to agree to make U.C. Merced the sweet spot for her first commencement address as first (African American) lady to the first class of undergraduate students to complete a full four-year course of study at the campus. The student-led initiative included a “We Believe” YouTube video, webelieve a Facebook campaign and more than 900 unique, hand written Valentine’s Day cards from the students, their friends, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and neighbors. The letters were delivered in one pretty heap to Michelle’s White House office, and the requests ranged from the pragmatic  (“please come, we need the publicity”) to the passionate ( YOU INSPIRE ME).

And hey, his wasn’t the first time the kids in Merced managed to win over powerful decision makers. Apparently it was not long ago that every Merced school child wrote a letter to the members of the U.C. Board of Regents urging them to locate the campus in their community. Apparently there is big power in uniting small voices of activism and optimism in order to make things happen. The university has quickly grown to more than 2,700 students, with the most diverse student body in the UC system.  More than half are first-generation college students, many from families whose incomes fall below the state poverty level.

I love when frontpage news leaves me choked up and inspired, instead of giving me anxiety and hives.

Lady Obama said, “There are few things more rewarding than young people who recognize that they have the power to make their dreams come true.” And despite Cemetery Mary making a big scene burying a dead dream last winter, we all know it was only to make room for something better to come along (how do you spell R-E-S-U-R-R-E-C-T-I-O-N?)

But these guys resurrected the excitement of possibility and new life without having the funeral. They are the newest campus in, well, kind of crappiest locale. Folks usually just stop there to gas up on the way to Yosemite. Turns out I was wrong. There’s a lot more to that little town than meets the naked eye. Thanks for lifting the spirits Merced.

Check out the scene here:

 

First Lady addresses UC Merced

First Lady addresses UC Merced

 

 

 

 

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