Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF student president's marathon speech ends

Omar Rodriguez, 20, of Tampa, speaks outside of Russel M. Cooper Hall on the University of South Florida campus Wednesday shortly after student body president Cesar Hernandez, right, 24, achieved his goal of speaking for 24 hours. 


Omar Rodriguez, 20, of Tampa, speaks outside of Russel M. Cooper Hall on the University of South Florida campus Wednesday shortly after student body president Cesar Hernandez, right, 24, achieved his goal of speaking for 24 hours. 

TAMPA — His voice reduced to a croak, Cesar Hernandez finally finished talking Wednesday morning.

The University of South Florida student body president had just succeeded in giving a campus speech for 24 hours straight. And, yes, he was tired.

A can of Red Bull and cup of coffee lay beside the folding table Hernandez set up outside Cooper Hall. His once sharp suit was rumpled. He sat hunched over his microphone.

Hernandez hoped the speech would raise awareness of students' rights in the face of budget cuts and changes to immigration laws. He intended it as an invitation to President Barack Obama to visit USF and answer students' concerns face to face.

"It wasn't about me," Hernandez said. "It's about the message."

He began at 11 a.m. Tuesday, eager and energetic. As students came and went, Hernandez talked about his life experiences, his beliefs in equality and positivity and current political issues.

But he spent the majority of his time reading from a thick book: Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

By 9 a.m. Wednesday, Hernandez was on Page 427, talking about Harry Truman.

A handful of students stood and watched.

Anthropology senior Donald Henry, 24, had been there since 5 a.m. after leaving at 9:45 p.m. the night before.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "World War I, World War II, the Americans trying to invade Cuba, lots of history."

Other than that?

"Leadership. When you're a leader, when you promise something you're going to do it. And look — he's still there," Henry said.

Nancy Palacios, a 22-year-old biomedical science junior, got there at 8 a.m. "to check on him," she said.

Palacios met Hernandez last year at a march on Washington. She's followed him to various demonstrations ever since.

"I try to learn from him," she said. "It seems like when he sets himself to something, he's going to make it happen."

Hernandez said there was never a time he was speaking without an audience — not even in the middle of the night. All of those students kept him going.

Dozens of them also signed up to carry on the marathon speech after Hernandez finished, filling time slots until the end of the week.

"It's really not about me," Hernandez said again.

By early afternoon, the baggy-eyed 24-year-old still hadn't slept.

"I'm like a freak of nature, I guess," he said.

In fact, at about 4 p.m. he was on his way to give another speech, this one to welcome his student government successor, Matt Diaz.

"I'm just giving the message that with 48,000 students, you've got to make sure you put your heart in it and give it your all," Hernandez said. "I think I proved that.

"Then I'm definitely going to go to sleep."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337.

USF student president's marathon speech ends 04/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. County looks to regulate dog trainers and ban 'helicoptering'


    TAMPA — More than 20 people spoke in favor of a proposed ordinance that would require dog trainers and dog day cares to be licensed during a Hillsborough County Commission's meeting Wednesday.

    Sarge, a Shih Tzu-Pekinese mix, died in the arms of owner Lorie Childers after attending a training program in 2015. Childers now wants local and state legislation to regulate animal trainers and punish ones that harm dogs in their care. [Courtesy of Lorie Childers]
  2. Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn't follow through


    President Donald Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

    President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting  with members of the Senate Finance Committee and his economic team on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 at the White House in Washington, D.C. [Pool photo by Chris Kleponis | Getty Images]
  3. State House leader Corcoran urges Congress to back Trump tax cuts


    TAMPA — At a time when President Donald Trump's relations with Congress grow frayed, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran lined up solidly with Trump Tuesday in urging Congress members from Florida to back the president's tax-cutting legislation.

    Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran backs the supply-side economic theory that cutting federal taxes for business owners would result in more jobs for others. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Tampa's Oaklawn Cemetery placed on National Register of Historic Places

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Oaklawn Cemetery, Tampa's first public graveyard, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Tampa's Oaklawn and neighboring St. Louis cemeteries just north of downtown have been added to the National Register of  Historic Places. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
  5. Romano: Love to hear your Nazi speech, but I'm washing my hair

    Human Interest

    A year ago, he was racism's favorite twerp.

    Richard Spencer, center in sunglasses, and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police after hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" clashed with anti-fascist protesters and police in August in Charlottesville, Va. [Getty Images]