Make us your home page
Instagram

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. 

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

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 kwilmath@sptimes.com 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

Loading...
  1. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  2. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  3. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  4. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  5. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.