EPA Administrator visits Brooklyn to Give Commencement Speech

Lisa Jackson walks towards the stage in preparation for her speech during the NYC College of Technology commencement ceremony at MCU Park at Coney Island on Friday, June 3, 2011.

By Kasia Broussalian

It took a while for anyone to notice me. When photographing, I like it that way. Real moments unfold in front of you, instead of staged, camera-wary ones.

“Hey! Who are you?”

Spotted. I turn towards the voice and my eyes meet at mid-navel height. Craning my head up to see his face, I fumble for the correct words. Technically, the e-mail had said to wait at the front entrance, where I would be escorted to a viewing area. While “sneaking in” was a bit off base (I had asked my way around, after all), “escorted” was even more so.

Heidi Ellis (right) and Assistant Press Secretary Alisha Johnson (center) secure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s cap before the start of the New York City College of Technology commencement ceremony. Lisa Jackson gave the commencement address.

“I’m from the Region 2 Public Affairs office, I’m here to see Lisa Jackson’s commencement speech,” I pronounce, hoping to inject some confidence. “I’m….part of the advance party?” Less certain here, I pick out another line from the e-mail that hadn’t quite been clear. He eyes me for a minute, and cracks a grin.

“You would make a good agent, you know?” At this, I roll my eyes. Amongst other reasons, my barely-over-five-feet-stature says otherwise. He shakes my hand, and introduces himself as Lisa Jackson’s, U.S. EPA Administrator, agent for the day. Meeting a new friend is always great, but meeting the right new friend is even better. It was smooth sailing from there on out. While I kept the illusion of composure in check, inside I was flying.  For a greater portion of an hour, I was standing next to Lisa Jackson, a cabinet-level executive! That has to be a thrill second only to meeting President Obama himself.

It’s my opinion that once you’ve been to one commencement ceremony; you’ve been to them all. However, New York City College of Technology’s ceremony at Coney Island captured a few moments that really sparkled. It could’ve been Student Government President Terel Watson’s poetic rendition of Mims’ “This is Why I’m Hot” rap, or, commencement speaker Lisa Jackson’s rebuttal with, “Terel, that’s why I’m hot.” However, I take my hat off to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who, on introducing Lisa Jackson, pushes the microphone to its limit with resounding confidence, “When you want a job done right, you gotta have a woman do it!”

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