Senior Larissa Davis said she did not even think she would know this year’s Commencement student speaker. But with the ceremony less than a week away, Davis is preparing to address about 20,000 people including the Class of 2001 on the Ellipse May 20.
“I’m very excited about it right now, but as it gets closer to the event I’m sure I’ll be much more nervous,” Davis said.
Davis, a double major in political science and international affairs with a
concentration in international politics, auditioned in April, University Marshal Jill Kasle said. Each school holds a competition, sending eight winners to compete against each other. The students presented their speeches to Kasle, Director of University Special Events Jim Hess and Director of Media Relations Gretchen King.
Kasle said Davis was chosen because she was the “best candidate.”
“Larissa is an excellent speaker,” she said. “She demonstrated poise, stage presence and effectiveness.”
A native of Stanhope, N.J., Davis said she feels privileged to be the student speaker at Commencement.
“This is a great honor because I’ve had such a great experience here at GW, and giving the speech allows me to give something back to the school,” Davis said.
Davis, president of GW’s all-female a cappella group The Pitches, said she has public speaking experience that may have contributed to the University’s choice. She was in several plays and musicals in high school, speaks for The Pitches at public events and gave the eulogy at her father’s funeral in January 1999, she said.
“Giving the eulogy at my father’s funeral was the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” she said. “Compared to that, (speaking at Commencement) should be easy.”
In her speech Davis said she will try to summarize the accomplishments of her class and what graduating students should do in the future.
“I’m going to talk about moving through life with the courage to use our own values and why that is important for our generation,” Davis said.
Davis said she also wants to thanks all the people who have helped the graduates.
“I want to express the accomplishments of everyone at the ceremony,” she said. “All the professors and family who have supported the graduates deserve to be honored as well as the graduates.”
Davis said her mother has been a strong influence in her life.
“My mom would always say, `I’ll love you no matter what’ and at the same time she would push me to do better than I thought I could,” she said.
At the ceremony Davis and her family will have the chance to meet keynote speaker author Herman Wouk and honorary degree recipient singer Tony Bennett.
“I haven’t read (Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel) The Caine Mutiny, but I will be sure to do it before I meet Wouk so I can talk with him about it,” Davis said.
Davis said the interesting people she met highlighted her time at GW.
“I’ve had a great time at GW,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of great professors, and I’ve gotten to know a few of them outside of the school environment.”
Davis said she has also enjoyed singing with The Pitches.
“I’ve been with The Pitches for four years and singing with them has been a great release,” she said.
Davis said she discovered GW after looking through books about the best colleges in America. Davis said she had a feeling she wanted to go to a school in D.C. because of her interest in politics.
“I went and looked at American (University), Georgetown (University) and GW all in the same day, and I got the best feeling from GW,” she said.
During her time at Lenape Valley Regional High School, Davis was active in her school community, participating in choirs, National Honor Society, student council, a German language club and the school’s peer advising group.
Davis said her future plans remain undecided, but her long-term goals include law school, doing research for a think tank, running for political office and, at the end of her career, she hopes to become a professor.
“Of course there is always the dream of being a singer,” Davis said. “If I join a rock band, all those other plans are out the window.”