Will Your College Host a Famous Commencement Speaker?
By Autumn at University Language
Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012
The commencement speaker is often a point of special interest during a college graduation ceremony. Both the graduates and the audience are ready to be inspired by the words of successful people who show up to make a speech.
There is often even more interest when the commencement speaker happens to be famous, and some colleges have been lucky enough to attract well-known speakers. This, in return, can attract attention for the school.
Which colleges feature famous commencement speakers this year?
This spring, a number of colleges are boasting about their well-known commencement speakers. A sampling:
- Barnard College: President Obama
- College of William & Mary: Jim Lehrer
- George Washington University: Brian Williams
- Northeastern University: Colin Powell
- Regent University: Michele Bachmann
- Smith College: Jane Lynch
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Cokie Roberts
- University of Massachusetts: Ted Koppel
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Michael Bloomberg
- University of Virginia: Katie Couric
- Wagner College: Elie Wiesel
- William Woods University: Val Kilmer
Does a famous commencement speaker matter?
It can be nice to brag when your college hosts a famous commencement speaker, if only to impress your friends at other schools. Not every college is able to catch the attention of someone famous, so in some ways, it is considered an honor.
Sure, famous commencement speakers are generally people successful in their field of expertise. Yet not every successful person is famous, which means that even if your commencement speaker is not well-known, he or she is likely a success in some way.
Many colleges never host a famous commencement speaker, but whoever speaks can still be inspiring. For example, schools frequently ask CEOs of major companies to speak at commencement, in addition to senators, presidential cabinet members and college presidents.
Remember: successful entrepreneurs, veterans and Nobel winners are not always household names, but they can certainly still be interesting! For this reason, it should not matter if your college’s commencement speaker is famous since he or she will likely inspire you either way.
Commencement Speaker Requirements
Some schools have certain rules for their commencement speaker every year, and many celebrities would not meet their standards. For instance, some colleges require their commencement speaker to be an alumnus of the school. This may allow speakers to connect with the audience better than someone who did not attend the college.
On the other hand, some schools employ a strict process in which a committee must nominate and finally choose a commencement speaker with the potential to impress both the audience and graduates.
And then there is Yale, which generally does not even have a commencement speaker, except when a current president is given an honorary degree. For this reason, former President George W. Bush was the school’s commencement speaker in 2001.
Although you are not advised to choose a school based on its record of impressive commencement speakers, this is one way that some colleges attempt to grab attention, and thus increase its number of applicants. This may be one reason that a college might strive to get a famous commencement speaker, but it does not mean that fame is all that matters during graduation.
Who will be your college’s commencement speaker this year? Were you hoping for anyone in particular?