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Obama's ASU address big draw for students

Tonight's ceremonies at Arizona State University include the president, rock icon Alice Cooper, hundreds of security officials and a crowd likely to fill Sun Devil Stadium.
Arizona State Obama
Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. will also award five scholarships in Obama's name.Chris Carlson / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Arizona State University students are getting a graduation ceremony to remember forever.

Wednesday evening's ceremonies will include the president of the United States, rock icon Alice Cooper, hundreds of security officials and a crowd likely to fill Sun Devil Stadium.

Seeing President Barack Obama deliver the commencement is the big draw and something that won't soon be forgotten. "No matter what your politics are it's going to be a very cool thing. When else can you say I saw the president of the United States give my commencement speech," said Sarah Larson, a 23-year-old education major.

Ismael Paderez, 35, of Phoenix, plans to arrive at the stadium at 3:00 p.m. Nothing, he said, would have prevented his family from attending the ceremony to see him get his degree in electrical engineering.

"I'm the first person on my father's side to graduate from college," he said. "With this economy ... and looking for a job ... I want to hear the president give a message of inspiration."

The pre-ceremony show will include an appearance by Cooper, Mexican mariachis bands, a gospel choir and a marching band.

Following Obama's address, university president Michael Crow will award five high school students with scholarships named after the president. The President Barack Obama Scholars program will offer them up to $17,000 annually to pay for tuition, books, room and board.

Virgil Renzulli, an ASU spokesman, said ASU hopes the scholarship will serve as a national model for universities aiming to make college more affordable.

"We know that for Arizona to be competitive and the U.S. to be competitive we have got to produce more college graduates," he said. "We hope this (scholarship) will have a lasting effect."

With the temperature expected to hit a high of 99 degrees, the day was shaping up to be a long, hot one for the expected crowd of 63,000, including 9,000 graduates. University officials are warning people to expect up to a 90-minute wait to clear security checkpoints, which will be managed by U.S. Secret Service agents.