Editorial: Who?

Like fans leaving games of the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and the GW men’s basketball team, students leave the Ellipse on Commencement day dreaming about next year. With the notable exception of Virginia Gov. Mark Warner last year, GW has not brought in the high-profile Commencement speakers students came to expect after appearances by Bill Cosby, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 1990s.

Each of this year’s planned speakers – including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Nobel Laureate – are impressive and worthy of recognition by the University. Each of them has made valuable contributions to American society. And while this page does not to want to slight their impressive careers, they don’t meet the high expectations students have for a recognizable, inspirational Commencement speaker.

Since a student’s four years of college culminates with the Commencement ceremony, students have justifiably high expectations for the keynote speaker. To generate excitement for Commencement, students want someone whose name immediately resonates with them. Such a speaker also should have a presence and message that inspires graduates to dream about their future. And while the group of four could potentially serve a similar role, their lack of name recognition does not put them on par with other speakers GW has recruited in the past.

Every year, GW sees dozens of famous people speak on campus. If these individuals are willing to spend their time speaking on campus, it only seems logical that a concerted administrative effort could have resulted in a high-profile speaker for the most well attended ceremony of the year. Next year, the administration should focus its effort on recruiting a high-profile politician, foreign leader, entertainer or activist to serve in this role. Recruiting someone like Conan O’Brian, Al Gore or Bono would add immeasurably to the commencement experience of graduating seniors. With the combination of the Law School and general graduation ceremony next year, the future is bright with recent Law gets including Sandra Day O’Connor and this year’s International Court of Justice’s Thomas Buergenthal.

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