It has been one of the most talked-about topics among seniors. In addition to the usual panic over career placement, moving and who to send graduation announcements to, we have all been wondering who will speak at this year’s commencement. The commencement organizers decided to give us … (drumroll, please): our own President Sample.
Oh yes, the university really had to stretch its networking contacts in order to bring us our very own president to give the parting words to the 2010 graduating class.
To be fair, it makes sense for Sample to be given the chance to speak, since this is his final year at USC and he has racked up an astounding number of accomplishments while devoting his life and energy to this school for the last 19 years. But it doesn’t take away from the disappointment that comes with this announcement, considering how highly it was anticipated.
In the past, USC has been among those enviable colleges that consistently recruit celebrities and other impressive name-brand speakers to send our newest alumni out into the world. As the Daily Trojan reported on Tuesday, former speakers include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ted Koppel, Neil Armstrong and Bill Cosby. It seems, however, that we have joined the group of primarily smaller schools who focus on finding someone dependable rather than flashy, to make a well-rounded (albeit usually generic) speech about the rewards of hard work and the thrills of the unexplored road ahead.
The general senior consensus on Sample seems to be one of dissatisfaction. We only graduate from college once; we want it to be as special as it has been for students in the past.
It is not as if the university lacks a long list of “very important persons” to contact. The film school alone has enough star-studded alumni to fill the Shrine Auditorium; couldn’t the organizers have given Uncle George (Lucas) a ring?
The news is even more disheartening considering the impressive speakers that will be attending other college’s graduation ceremonies. Yale snagged Bill Clinton; Harvard landed former Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter; Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, will speak at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.; and actor Danny Glover is traveling all the way to Logan, Utah, to visit Utah State University.
Granted, it was easy for seniors to get carried away with our list of speaker hopefuls. Names such as Oprah, Steve Jobs and Hillary Clinton were tossed around, though these expectations were pie in the sky. We all knew that there was no way Barack Obama would be coming to Los Angeles to talk to seniors on a smoggy summer morning, but many seemed to secretly hope that someone almost equally as impressive would grace us with their presence.
In fact, the president will be addressing the class of 2010 at both the University of Michigan and Hampton University.
Additionally, the first lady will be speaking at George Washington University. Michelle Obama challenged the students to complete 100,000 hours of community service in exchange for her attendance at commencement on May 16, a mission they accomplished just last week.
Graduation is such an important milestone in a person’s life. Commencement is a day that marks the beginning of our futures, our entry into adulthood. The speaker is charged with the task of bestowing some enlightening anecdotes and advice to graduating students while simultaneously entertaining their visiting friends and relatives.
There’s no doubt that Sample will give a meaningful and
resounding speech. He is well-regarded for his inspiring presence and is sure to deliver a message worthy of his send-off. In fact, many students, while disappointed in his lack of star power, are indeed excited by the announcement.
However, it remains unsatisfactory that we weren’t able to secure a more exciting public figure like we’ve had in years past. After all, we’re USC; we tend to hold a bit of clout among the collegiate set. Surely we could have booked someone who would have granted us some bragging rights among our friends from high school.
The best way to satisfy the demands of the student body would be for the university to grant seniors some participation in determining their commencement speaker. Ballots should be available online at the beginning of the year where students could list their ideal speakers, and the university would try to contact the most popular recommendations.
Even if the proposed candidates were unavailable, students would at least feel like they had some say in determining whose speech they would sit through at the end of the year, making it a more personal selection process.
To be honest, at the end of the day, most students will probably barely even remember the commencement speech, since they’ll still be rubbing the sleep from their eyes after their early wake up.
But perhaps if someone more notable walked up to the podium that morning, the speech would not be so easily forgotten and the students’ grogginess would instead give way to excitement.
Amy Baack is a senior majoring in cinema-television production.