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Graduates march out of Franklin Field while a security official stands guard. 

Credit: Courtesy of Aminata Sy

The world was watching during Sunday's College of Arts and Sciences graduation because of two names: Trump and Biden.

2016 College graduate Tiffany Trump, daughter of Republican presidential candidate and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump, and 2016 College graduate Naomi Biden, the granddaughter of Vice President Joe Biden, were among the roughly 1,500 graduating students of the College of Arts and Sciences on May 15 at the University of Pennsylvania. And both graduates' well-known relatives came out to support them. Thirteen local and national media outlets covered the event, including CNN, Fox News and the Washington Post. 

Security measures at the ceremony were tight. Although the event began at 6:30 p.m., reporters were required to be in the stadium by 2:30 p.m., and Secret Service agents checked bags at the entrance and directed attendees through a metal detector. Other Secret Service agents walked around with dogs, and Penn police maintained a presence scattered on 33rd Street and Spruce Street, and within Franklin Field. 

The day was cold and windy, and as rain seemed to threaten to bring the ceremony to a halt, the much anticipated guests of the evening made it to Franklin Field. Trump and then Vice President Biden arrived. When the two men entered the stadium, the crowd cheered louder to welcome Biden than it did for Trump. More cheers followed for the graduating class of 2016 as the students walked across the Franklin Field with smiles. Some of the audience members shouted, “We love you!” to the students.

Marian Brakefield, a member of the audience, said her whole family is proud of her graduating niece, 2016 College graduate Taylor Jamerson. She added that Trump and Biden coming to the ceremony highlighted how important education truly is.

“Whenever our political officials come, it tells children that this is very important, “ Brakefield said. “It’s great that our leaders are concerned about education because the more educated people we have, the stronger of a country we’re going to have.”

Victor Jackson came with other family members to support his graduating son, 2016 College graduate Aleem Jackson. He describes his son as a student who had been well-behaved and focused in his studies over the years.

“He is the first one in my family to graduate college, “ he said. “ It’s a great accomplishment. It’s even more of an accomplishment that he has graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.”

After the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Steven Fluharty, welcomed the Class of 2016, he called the students “the academic heart of Penn.” He added that the students have both learned from Penn and generated new ideas.

“The key to success is the never ending process of discovery.” Fluharty explained.

The keynote speaker of the gathering, Bill Shore, challenged the graduates not to wait to solve the many problems of today’s world. He highlighted how 46 million people in America live on food stamps and how the majority of public school students are poor. He urged the students to reach out, share their strength and bare witness to the world around them.

Laura Sorice, a graduating student who spoke at the ceremony, remembered her time at Penn as that of uncertainty but also new opportunities. She said a question that lurks in the minds of many Penn students is,  “What are we doing here?”

She praised her fellow graduates for their drive.

“Penn students are some of the most stubborn and strong people I have ever met,” Sorice said.

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