Virginia Tech welcomed two commencement speakers to address the class of 2012, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama.
“Today we gather to acknowledge the success of more than 5,000 college graduates,” Warner said. “Students that always know maroon and orange go well together—the Virginia Tech class of 2012.”
Both Warner and Obama spoke to the students about the importance of being leaders once they graduate and how proud they were to be there. They also reminded the students to respect their family. Warner made a point to remind the graduates to call their mothers and supporters to tell them how much they loved them.
Upon making her way onto the stage, Obama received a standing ovation from the students. Her speech addressed the strength of the Tech community and how she was able to relate their effort to service to her own.
“The Hokie community did not just happen,” Obama said. “You created it. You can do that again no matter where you are in life.”
The First Lady mentioned Justin Graves in her speech, a senior sociology student who graduated that day. Graves had spoken to her earlier, and she said that his dedication to others was a reflection of the type of students at Tech.
Warner and Obama also spoke to each other when Warner challenged her to a sack race after the ceremonies, which she accepted.
“Just so you know,” Obama said, “I play to win.”
Obama closed her speech by reminding the students not to allow Tech to be defined by the campus shootings of April 16, 2007, and encourage people in their community to stop defining them as such.
“When you all are out there in the world,” she said, “and you meet someone and you tell them you’re from Virginia Tech and they say, ‘Isn’t that the school where--' I want you to interrupt them right there and say, ‘Yes, it the school where we have some of the best academic programs and professors in the country.’ That’s what you tell them.”