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UB student Silvana C. D’Ettorre welcomed President Obama to UB and Western New York. Photo: Douglas Levere

Opportunity of a lifetime: UB student introduces the president


Published August 22, 2013

Until Thursday, Silvana C. D’Ettorre had never given a public speech.

That changed in a big way as the UB sophomore and Grand Island native stood before thousands of people in Alumni Arena and welcomed President Barack Obama to Western New York.

“Of all the opportunities I’ve had as a University at Buffalo student, the opportunity I have today is by far the most amazing,” said D’Ettorre, 19, an exercise science major who plans to enroll in UB’s School of Dental Medicine.

D’Ettorre, who stayed up until 4 a.m. Wednesday preparing her speech, admitted that she was extremely nervous to speak in front of the estimated 7,200 people in attendance.

“It’s a lot of responsibility. I feel like I’m representing UB, Buffalo, my family – it’s incredible,” she said.

Beforehand, she briefly met Obama in the heart of Alumni Arena. She said he was “very calm.”

“It was like meeting a cool dad,” said D’Ettorre, who received a hug from the president as he walked onstage.

During her speech, D’Ettorre said UB is a prime example of a “low-cost, high-quality” education. She praised the university’s Finish in 4 program, in which students pledge to graduate in four years and UB commits to providing them the resources they need.

“Personally, knowing that I have guaranteed graduation after four years makes me completely comfortable that I will not have any additional unexpected loans, especially during a time of increased college costs,” she said.

D’Ettorre, who said that several of her family members are UB graduates, spoke after UB President Satish K. Tripathi kicked off the president’s historic visit by noting that UB “is deeply proud” to host Obama. Tripathi spoke of his upbringing in India and how he dreamed of attending college in the United States and becoming a teacher.

“I want to ensure that U.S. higher education continues to be the destination of choice for students from across the globe for generations to come,” he said. “At UB, we create spaces where people of diverse perspectives and backgrounds can come together to discuss the critical issues we face as a society.”

The remarks were appropriate given that Obama unveiled a plan designed to help reform U.S. higher education. Obama pledged to introduce a valued-based rating system of colleges and universities to help students make the best choice of where to attend; develop a system that rewards colleges and universities for keeping their costs low and quality of education high; and new tools to help students repay existing college loans while keeping future loans from becoming too expensive.

D’Ettorre, who will become a student ambassador this fall, praised Obama’s commitment to higher education.

“I greatly admire his passion in ensuring that everyone – regardless of family income, gender or race – has access to an exceptional and affordable education,” she said during her speech. “With that, I am so proud to introduce you now to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”


I am so very proud of Silvana's smooth and effective remarks today in introducing President Obama to the UB campus.

You'd never know she was operating on fumes. 

I'm thankful my son and she will both benefit from UB's new Finish in Four initiative as sophomore members of the Undergraduate Academies.

Kudos to you, Silvana! Now go get some well-deserved rest before fall semester starts.

Diana Weaving

For someone who has never given a public speech before, she did very good! You should be proud of yourself, Silvana!

Ania Perkowska