The Commencement speaker selection process is typically shrouded in secrecy, with a group of students and administrators sifting through dozens of big names each year to find a GW link.
And recently, that group found that the University has a connection to a pop icon: Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga, whose mother, Cynthia Germanotta, graduated from GW with a master of public administration, has been a top contender to send graduates off into the real world, a top administrator said last week.
Vice President for External Relations Lorraine Voles, who spearheads the Commencement speaker committee, would not say which year the University was vying to have Lady Gaga to speak, but said GW will continue trying to book her in the future.
“She has a great message on anti-bullying and there is a lot of social awareness on that issue. I think she is someone who would be valuable on campus at any time,” Voles said of the pop star known for taking on social issues like homophobia through upbeat dance mixes and elaborate costumes and music videos.
Voles said that the committee found out “quickly” that Lady Gaga wouldn’t be available, which she said allowed the committee to pursue someone else rather than waiting to hear back.
“It’s easy to come up with a lot of speakers, but what’s not so easy is the connections that will actually get to the person,” Voles said. “So much of it is people’s availability.”
Germanotta, Lady Gaga’s mother, is president of the Born This Way Foundation, which she co-founded with her daughter.
After coming up with a list of about 50 well-known names, the committee narrows down their short list to about six public figures, and then uses GW connections to hook the speaker into giving a speech on the National Mall, Voles said. GW does not pay the speaker, and typically awards the guest an honorary degree.
The University would make a splash if it inked Lady Gaga to speak, as she has never delivered the headlining address at a graduation before.
Actress Kerry Washington, best known for starring in ABC’s hit show “Scandal,” will speak Sunday. She will mark a change from the usual political figures who have been enticed by giving a speech with the Capitol — or more recently, the Washington Monument — as a backdrop.
GW’s other most recent headliners have included Beltway choices such as first lady Michelle Obama, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara.
Students stirred the rumor mill last year by predicting the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton would be the speaker. While Voles said they want to break out from the mold of the most recent headliners, she stated Middleton was never close to reality.