Commencement Speakers Take Center Stage


I must admit that I don’t remember who spoke at my college’s commencement back in 1985. I was present at the convocation, but after attending school day and night for more years than I care to share, I doubt that whomever spoke left much of a lasting impression. I simply do not remember who that person was.

Air Force AcademyNevertheless, I am impressed when a school lands a “big name” to speak especially if this person is of a certain reputation that grads may actually be interested in what he or she has to say. On that note, I’ve compiled a list of  featuring ten of this year’s speakers, who they are, and where they’ll be speaking:

Barack Obama — The president of the United States will speak at three ceremonies this year: Arizona State University, the United States Naval Academy and at Notre Dame. The latter school has been the most controversial choice given Mr. Obama’s stance on abortion which is polar opposite to what the Catholic institution teaches.

Eric Schmidt — Google’s chairman and chief executive officer will be the keynote speaker at Carnegie-Mellon’s commencement on May 17th.

Laura Bush — The former First Lady of the United States will speak to grads at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University. Mrs. Bush graduated from the school in 1968 and is currently one of the school’s trustees.

Michelle Obama — The University of California Merced opened in 2005, so this year’s graduating class will be the first one for students who have attended the school for four full years. The class of 2009 wanted Mrs. Obama to speak, sending out a barrage of requests her way, resulting in an invitation which the First Lady accepted.

Bill Clinton — The former president of the United States is one of several speakers who will be encouraging grads at Florida A&M University when they get their degrees later this Spring.

Craig Barrett — Intel’s chairman will speak at Montana State University on May 16th. Barrett has said that his speech will discuss “…competition in the 21st century will be driven by smart people, smart ideas and an environment that allows for investment in innovative ideas.”

Thomas L. Friedman — The noted New York Times columnist and author will be speaking to University of Delaware grads at their ceremony on May 30th. Friedman is the author of the bestselling book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution.”

Buzz Aldrin — Crewmember of the historic Apollo 11 moon mission, Mr. Aldrin will speak to grads at High Point University this May. The small North Carolina school has a reputation for landing notable speakers including Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas who spoke last year.

Desmond Tutu — The controversial Anglican archbishop will take the podium at both Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tutu’s invitations has received criticism from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his criticism against Israel.

Chad Pennington — Returning to his alma mater, Marshall University, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington has remained an active supporter of various West Virginia programs including those which support local hospitals and schools.

As for your school, who will be the featured speaker for this Spring’s commencement?

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