Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Selecting Commencement Speakers

What the hell is going on with American colleges and commencement speaker boycotts? Any speaker is a target by the ruffians of any college. It is quite pathetic that any small group of students can prevent a paid speaker, as well as an indictment on the universities not having a grasp on security and control. Must be too busy penciling in raises, benefit bumps and pension feathering to actually govern the university. Who spoke at your graduation? Does it really matter? Senator Arlen Spector spoke at my sister's. Platitudes, some flattery for the parents, and well wishing but it was nice to say a US Senator spoke there. Cornell in spring of 2002 had Danny Glover speak at convocation, not graduation. There were no protests because the protests happened at speaker selection committee level.

Being seniors during 9/11, we knew we would be remembered as the "9/11 Class". Alumni were victims of the attacks. There were apocryphal stories of students receiving calls from people in the Towers during classes. Dubious, but you always wondered. All my professors cancelled classes that week except the British visiting professor. When the committee got together, a solid group of students wanted Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani to be the convocation speaker. Unfortunately, the committee had too many cathedral trainees who could not set aside petty politics to recognize the moment. Scratch Rudy.

Cornell reached out to President Bill Clinton. His wife had kicked off her senate campaign on campus, but Bill wanted big cash. Who could meet prog political demands but have name recognition. Danny Glover. Now after Glover accepted, Clinton came back saying he would do it for free, but we could not turn baxk on Glover's acceptance. That spring Glover spoke at convocation, and he sounded off. He repeated himself. My father joked on him in our section to small laughs, repeating Glover's line that " african-american girls are menstruating before the age of age". Still gets laughs at my parents' house.

After the convocation, my family took pictures at some nice spots then made our way to Willard Strait Hall for the committee refreshment reception. My aunt and I got a picture with Glover. Why was his speech off? He appeared drunk but did not smell of alcohol. Our guess: pills slurred his words. No one protested him but they should have for "Gone Fishing". He is taller than me ao it is Hollywood magic that he and Mel Gibson look remotely the ame height in their buddy cop franchise.

Commencement speakers have a screening process, so the polite kids of my school protested then. At these colleges, they screen and select their speakera carefully. The problem is the student body has changed. Protesting a speaker is a meaningless act and attention seeking. The world will not change, but it becomes a protest nugget for later recall when the graduate becomes a lifetime activist tool. Cathedral foot soldiers have to have origin stories. Taking on the big, establishment speaker is quite the fake feather in an Occutard's hat.

1 comment:

deGraz said...

George Bush I was the commencement speaker at my graduation, which was fairly controversial at my liberal school. Oddly enough, despite all the lefty outrage and calls for protest, nothing much came of it. A handful of misfits in the stands hooted a bit and turned their backs when Bush spoke, and that was the extent of it.