While former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara may have headlined the list of this year’s Commencement speakers, they were not the only ones to address the graduating class of 2006.
In addition to the former first couple and media conglomerate Viacom’s chief executive officer Sumner Redstone, who received honorary degrees from GW at Sunday’s ceremony, three other speakers also addressed graduates at GW’s individual school ceremonies throughout the weekend.
Former University President Lloyd Elliot, Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson and Motion Picture Association Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman all delivered keynote addresses at school ceremonies.
Frank Robinson was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Public Service degree at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ Saturday school celebration. Robinson could not speak at the University-wide Commencement ceremony on Sunday because his baseball team had a date to play the Baltimore Orioles.
“This is a tremendous honor for me and my family,” Robinson said before he addressed the CCAS class of 2006 graduates. “This is not something given on a daily basis.”
Sporting Washington Nationals baseball hats, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, University Marshall Jill Kasle, alumnus Robert Tannenbaum and graduate Alison Dorfman presented Robinson with his first collegiate honorary degree.
“Someone is dreaming of being the next Frank Robinson,” Trachtenberg said. “He’s an extravagantly talented player and manager in baseball … the stuff of legends.”
Robinson, the first black manager in major league baseball, told graduates that sometimes the best role models are closer than they think – their parents, not professional athletes.
“(Athletes) are not always the role model you want to be,” he said. “Most of the time, those people are your parents.”
He also shared with graduates the advice his mother offered him before leaving home and venturing into the real world.
“The door may not always open the first time you knock, but get back up until … someone listens,” Robinson said.
Robinson has been the manager of the Washington Nationals since their move from Montreal, Canada to D.C. in 2004. Major League Baseball recently chose a group of owners for the Nationals headed by Theodore Lerner, a GW Law alumnus and former member of the Board of Trustees.
Namesake of GW’s international affairs school, Elliott’s presidency began during the Vietnam era in 1965 and lasted for 23 years. In that time, he brought financial stability and continued growth to the University. He helped build projects like the Gelman Library, the Charles E. Smith Center and the Cloyd Heck Marvin Center.
Elliott told ESIA graduates that his own interest in international affairs began with “frightening, unexpected alarm” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Elliott added that serving his country in World War II allowed him to realize how difficult it is to acquire and apply knowledge about peace during times of war.
“How do the peoples of the world learn to live in peace? We certainly didn’t learn from (WWII) and we haven’t learned in the wars since,” Elliott said.
Motion Picture Association of America chairman and chief executive officer Dan Glickman addressed the crowd at the Law School ceremony Sunday in the Smith Center and reflected on his time as a student at GW. Glickman, a 1969 graduate of the GW Law School, served as a member of the House of Representatives and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001. Three years later, he became MPAA CEO. He received an honorary doctorate prior to his speech, which touched on movies, politics and famous quotes.
Glickman hoped that graduates would remember his emphasis on people skills after hearing his speech.
“Remember with all the skills you learn in school, the most important are your interpersonal skills,” Glickman said. “You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t have interpersonal skills, you don’t have a chance.”
In an interview with The Hatchet prior to his speech, Glickman said that he had come to GW to speak because of his ties to the school as an alumnus and to the city as a former resident.
Glickman said “I have strong and fond memories of being part of the George Washington experience.”