Posted by: Opey | May 21, 2007

I’m Back and Ready for More

OK, now that that whole graduation thing is over with, it’s time to get back to the business of blogging. But, before I get back to the world of the Crew (I’m delaying that painful revisit until Wednesday) and the multitude of new opinions I have formed over the past several days, I wanted to talk about something that is fresh on my mind, and rather topical in this instance. There was a tremendous, communal roar that arose over the UW campus the past week as our commencement speaker was announced as Andre De Shields (Link). With the possible exception of members of the performing arts sectors of the university, this speaker was a complete unknown. He is a somewhat accomplished actor, but he was not someone like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or some other big-name politician/celebrity. I was very much in the camp that felt slighted by the choice. I was completely incorrect in this belief. Mr. De Shields, in the first place, had the two characteristics that are vital in a commencement speaker: creativity and a tremendous speaking ability. He invoked the words of English poets and Mick Jagger in the same speech, which is no easy feat. His charge to us was that we were entering into the new age of Aquarius, a time of increased interconnectedness, liberation, and understanding and that we collectively are to be the light to lead us into that new age (Link). It was a rather original sentiment, delivered in an original fashion. If we would have went with the politician route, we would have gotten the usual stump speech and would have had to endure a “sales pitch” of a charge. In addition, UW does not pay for its speakers, unlike many public and private universities, so we must rely on alumni connections. Reflecting back on the idea, paying for commencement speakers seems rather “phony.” If a person is to deliver a true and meaningful charge to a graduating class, it should be out of their own desire, and not a profit-driven motive. I fully take back and regret any doubt in the selection of Mr. De Shields as the presenter of our charge and I am now a large proponent of looking for substance over name-recognition in terms of graduation speakers.

*As promised earlier, here is a link to the transcript of Andre De Shield’s speech.

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