ANN ARBOR — Christina Beckman was told less than 24 hours prior to President Barack Obama giving his speech at the University of Michigan that she would be introducing him.
That staff at the Office of Public Affairs on the university’s campus nominated their employee Beckman, 20, of Greenville, to introduce the president in front of a crowd of about 4,000 at Al Glick Field House on the school’s Ann Arbor campus.
Beckman said she had so many emotions running through her when she was selected including being nervous, scared and excited.
“I was speechless,” Beckman said. “It was unbelievable.”
She knew the president was going to talk about making education more affordable, so she said she wanted to make sure to touch on subjects such as financial aid while introducing him. She said she could relate to the issue because not only is she attending college but so are her sisters Olivia and Leah.
During her speech, she said it was not only important to mention the University of Michigan, but to also mention Greenville.
“I am proud of where I am from,” Beckman said. “I definitely wanted to include it.”
Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines said finding out about Beckman’s opportunity to introduce the president was amazing.
“We are indeed very proud to see one of out outstanding graduates seize this leadership opportunity,” Haines said. “This has been another grand day for Greenville Public Schools.”
Before the speech, Beckman had the opportunity to meet with the president.
She said she could hear his “surreal voice” coming down the hall shortly after finding out she was going to get to meet him.
“He was very down-to-earth and asked me questions to get to know me better,” she said. “He told me I was going to do great.”
From there, the two walked together with security to where the speech was going to take place.
“It was incredible,” she said of the experience.
Although this whole experience is a moment she will never forget, Beckman said the most memorable part was when the president kissed her on the cheek.
Beckman’s father said once she was done introducing the president, he got up to give her a hug and kiss on the cheek as well.
“She pulled away,” James Beckman said laughing. “No one was going to touch her cheek after the president kissed it.”
Beckman said after the speech she was able to meet Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan.
“That was very unexpected,” Beckman said. “That has always been a dream of mine to meet her.”
From her experience she said one thing she learned was how to keep her composure. With of the nerves and excitement running through her she knew she had to stay calm.
She said she is thankful for her nomination through the Office of Public Affairs to get this opportunity.
“At the University of Michigan, I have learned there are endless opportunities,” Beckman said.
Beckman wasn’t notified until about 4 p.m. on Thursday that she had been selected to introduce the president, but she had to keep it a secret at first for security reasons.
Beckman was allowed to tell her parents, James and Kim Beckman, late Thursday night and they were able to attend the speech along with her sisters Grace, a Greenville High School student, and Olivia, also a University of Michigan student. Her oldest sister, Leah, wasn’t able to attend because she’s attending the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis.