Staff Editorial: Aim high for speaker

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February 1, 2008

7:26 PM

Graduation is a time to reflect on four well-spent years, to remember the crackle of the Yule log in Wren on a frosty December evening and the scent of boxwoods floating across the Sunken Garden in the half-light before dusk. But more than that, graduation is a time to listen to someone really ridiculously famous talk about the future — our future.

p. Over the course of the last 20 years or so, though, three-quarters of the College’s graduation speakers have been politicos of some kind. And, while we don’t want to shortchange the work of these legislators and diplomats, maybe it’s time to hear from someone more, well, exotic.

p. The senior class agrees. Its wish list swings for the fences: J.K. Rowling, Tony Blair, Stephen Colbert, any one of whom would be an excellent choice for the 2008 graduation ceremonies.

p. To some degree the list is the result of a popularity contest — the quest for the most exciting name available — but even then, top-shelf graduation speakers hold merit beyond their ability to provide an enthralling 20 minutes. Just as year after year of local news anchors and semi-successful businessmen will fail to inspire, the power to attract superstars raises eyebrows and marks a first-class university.

p. In 2005 the College put former President Timothy J. Sullivan behind the lectern to honor his 13 years of service. We question that decision not because he was a lackluster speaker, but because graduation offers an opportunity to experience talent foreign to the school.

p. This year, the College could fall into the same trap with Sam Sadler, Vice President for Student Affairs, who will be retiring at year’s end. While we can’t help but admire Sadler’s Yule Log antics and his unwavering dedication to the College, the graduating class deserves a fresh face for this seminal moment. We encourage him, implore him even, to speak this May but not as the official graduation speaker.

p. Graduation may only be one day among four years of school, but beginnings and endings tend to remain even as the interim fades to gray. We hope the College will make the right choices to ensure this ending is one worth remembering.

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