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A surprise visit from a man who needs no introduction: Obama

President Barack Obama and David Letterman at CCNY
President Barack Obama and David Letterman at CCNY | Photo Credit: Netflix/Joe Pugliese

No one in the audience at Aaron Davis Hall knew who the surprise guest would be. They only knew they’d been invited by City College’s Center for the Arts to the taping of the first episode of David Letterman’s Netflix show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction”. They had no idea they were about to become part of yet another historic event at The City College of New York.

Until President Barack Obama strode on stage.

Nine hundred people leapt to their feet in thunderous applause to welcome Obama back home to the place where he first learned to hone his community organizing skills in a short stint with NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group).

During the show, which is now streaming on Netflix, Obama had little to say about the current President or the goings on in the White House. But he had plenty to say about kids, dance moves, retirement, and social media.

He downplayed his time on campus as a NYPIRG project coordinator, joking “CCNY was where I got my first organizing job. I wasn’t here long and was terrible at my job. I passed out some flyers and got maybe four people to attend a meeting, which was fewer than the panelists I had arranged….” But it was clear that he valued the experience and took his failures in stride – especially in comparison with the sacrifices of people like John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. who suffered greatly in their efforts to achieve equality.

John Lewis and others that marched carried me and America across that bridge (in Selma). He inspired me to the path I took. What John Lewis and MLK teach us is to ask questions; if we see cruelty, inequality, injustice – to ask why is that, what can I do about it? Are there sacrifices I’m willing to make to change it. That’s not always easy. But it’s necessary and that’s how progress is made. The way American has become more perfect (not perfect) is when ordinary people decide that’s just not right.”

You can view the full episode on Netflix.

About The City College of New York

Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Today The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks CCNY #2 among public colleges with the greatest success in ensuring the social mobility of our student body; at the same time the Center for world University Rankings places it in the top 1.2% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight professional schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

 

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Media contact: Rebecca Rivera rrivera1@ccny.cuny.edu 212.650.5310