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Graduation speaker earns praise from Obama
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Graduation speaker earns praise from Obama

Jessica Blank shared podium with president at Barnard ceremonies

The month of May has been a whirlwind for Jessica Blank. On May 14, a week and a half after becoming engaged, the Livingston resident delivered a commencement address at Barnard College and met Barack Obama.

As president of Barnard’s student government she was one of the graduating seniors to address the commencement ceremony. The president was the guest speaker.

Blank spoke with Obama before and after the ceremony.

“I said, ‘Hello, Mr. President, my name is Jessica Blank. I am the student government president at Barnard College. Thank you so much for coming.’

“He said to me, ‘Well, hello Madame President.’

“Oh, wow! I was just shell-shocked,” said Blank, a 2007 graduate of Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston.

“When the president of the United States comes up to you — there are not many things that can top that,” she said. “People have said ‘there aren’t many places you can go from there.’”

Obama’s commencement address on women and their potential power was perceived in part as a campaign speech aimed at what Democrats are calling the “Republican war on women.”

Asked about her reaction, Blank said she doesn’t like talking “about my political persuasions. But as to the war on women, it is a shame that we are now discussing issues we thought we had gotten past, such as reproductive health. They came up years ago, and now they are back again.”

Blank majored in political science and international relations and is about to begin working in the corporate media marketing department of the Gannett Company in New York.

Although she mentioned in her speech wanting to become the first female president of the United States, she has no immediate intention to enter politics. “I don’t know if I will ever run for office, but it has always been such a huge interest of mine,” she told NJJN.

“No job you go to right after college will be your last job. I am going to industry and perhaps I’ll stay there. Perhaps I’ll go into politics. I am in transit right now.”

Part of that transition is a move from her parents’ home to an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

She is engaged to Noam Zeffren, a 2012 graduate of New York University who plans to study medical research before applying to medical school.

Obama told Blank that he “very much enjoyed my speech,” she said. “Then he spoke with me and two other speakers and said we were ‘powerhouses of women.’ That was another highlight moment.”

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