Staff Editorial: Who do you want to speak at Commencement?

Year after year, students seem to be disappointed by the opaque nature of keynote speaker selections, but now the GW community has the opportunity to be part of the process from the get-go.

If you are an upperclassman, you probably remember the uproar when former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was chosen to give the keynote address in addition to his usual remarks. Students felt they were not consulted at all during the process and protested heavily until Trachtenberg stepped down as keynote speaker. The whole debacle diminished the build-up to Commencement ceremonies and should be avoided at all costs.

Although students could technically express opinions about the speaker in the past, there was no formal process. Now University President Steven Knapp and the Special Advisory Committee on Commencement Speakers have offered an easy-to-use online form for open nominations, and people should be using it.

There are no restrictions on who can be nominated, but GW community members should take this opportunity seriously and resist the urge to spam the form with random, unfeasible choices.

Everyone wants a celebrity at Commencement, but the urge to nominate only high-profile prospective speakers narrows the pool considerably. When nominating, consider what the role of a keynote speaker should be. This page has stated before that the keynote address should be given by someone who is outside the scope of the University, an outsider who can give graduates a different perspective on the future.

The knee-jerk reaction from most students is to protest the Commencement selection unless the speaker is suitably prominent. With the open nomination form available, however, everyone should have ample opportunity to get their picks in. Those who do not use the form should remember that they had the opportunity to influence the selection before they begin to protest.

When the speaker is announced, we can all have a rational debate about his or her merits. Until then, the GW community should take advantage of this chance to nominate and use the online form. The open nominations process closes this Friday. Show the administration that they made the right choice in seeking help with this pivotal choice.

Nominations are due Friday. Visit

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