Penn State students honored to be part of Obama visit

February 02, 2011

University Park, Pa. – On a trip to New York City last weekend with his musical theater classmates, Penn State junior Paul Jordan Jansen was informed he was getting the opportunity to sing the national anthem in front of the president of the United States. At the same time in State College, Pa., Michael Miller, a secondary education major and Army ROTC cadet and Cadet Battalion Commander of the Nittany Lion Battalion, learned he was chosen to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the same event.

“I honestly have no clue why they chose me, but the director of our program told me Graham Spanier asked for me to sing at Obama’s speech,” said Jansen, referring to Cary Libkin, professor of theatre and head of the musical theatre program. “I’m honored, blessed and extremely nervous. I’m always a little nervous before I sing, but I’m going to be really nervous Thursday. But it’ll be fun.”

“I’m so thrilled about this opportunity,” Miller, of Allentown, Pa., said. “Growing up I always wanted to meet the president, and this is such an honor. A week ago I had no idea about this, it never crossed my mind that I’d even have the opportunity to see the president speak.”

In a way, Jansen has been practicing for this performance for quite some time. A Berea, Ohio, native, he grew up singing the national anthem at sporting events. Since the age of 10, when his mother made him audition for a musical she was producing, he has loved musical theater. Both of his older sisters are involved in the arts and Jansen, whose enthusiasm for music has been inspired by noted Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, even gave up playing football to continue singing and acting.

Despite all the work Jansen has done to pursue his passion, he still never expected the privilege of singing in front of the United States president.

“This is a huge honor for me, it really is,” Jansen said. “As an African-American male, I’m definitely thrilled to be singing before the first black president of the United States. It’s a really big deal for me. I feel so blessed. My mom told me I need to be thanking God for this every day.”

Miller, who grew up in a military family, was chosen for his leadership as the Cadet Battalion Commander of the Nittany Lion Battalion. While growing up he developed an appreciation for those who serve our country and protect our freedoms. It was only natural for him to want to do the same when he was old enough. He said that he will never take for granted all the freedoms Americans are able to enjoy.

He added that it’s also an honor for Obama to come to Penn State, to recognize the University for the innovative work it’s doing in energy efficiency, something he’s excited to hear Obama address.

  • Paul Jordan Jansen (left), Michael Miller

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated March 21, 2011