President Obama will be delivering the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this May and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I am more than a bit jealous.
While seniors in South Bend, Indiana, will be treated to a speech from the leader of the free world and the country’s first black president, I will be in Queens listening to an as-of-yet unannounced commencement speaker.
From having spoken with representatives from St. John’s Media Relations, I’m fairly positive the University will have its own commencement speaker this year. It won’t be Obama, but it’ll at least be a somewhat high-profile name.
With that said, I’ve compiled a list of the top five individuals I’d like to see deliver St. John’s 2009 commencement address – the people I’d enjoy seeing who are actual realistic possibilities to give the all-important speech come graduation. As much as I’d love to include some ludicrous choices on here, like Sarah Palin, Bob Dylan, or Conan O’Brien, I’ve limited my picks to individuals that might actually agree to a St. John’s invitation. So, without further ado, here are my top choices for who I hope to see deliver the 2009 commencement address at St. John’s University:
1- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Let’s face it – Michael Bloomberg would be a perfect fit for St. John’s commencement.
He oftentimes gives keynote addresses at New York City graduations (Barnard last year, for example) and, what’s more, he has a healthy relationship with St. John’s. In 2007, St. John’s joined with Mayor Bloomberg as part of his “PlaNYC Challenge” in an attempt to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.
SJU has continued to push its environmental awareness over the last few years and has been vocal in its adherence to Bloomberg’s policies. If St. John’s could land Bloomberg, it would secure itself a prominent speaker on par with those at other major NYC universities; it would also provide a fantastic and memorable experience for graduates and their parents. 2- Current Head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano: Honestly, Napolitano has just the right amount of celebrity name recognition to make her a realistic possibility for commencement speaker.
She’s not exactly a household name like Hillary Clinton (who’s speaking at NYU this year), nor does she have the same type of political clout as Rahm Emmanuel (the George Washington University speaker). But what Napolitano lacks in celebrity status, she makes up for in actual insight. After all, she is an important member of President Obama’s cabinet, and only the third head of Homeland Security in our nation’s history. She’d be a fabulous speaker who could talk about what it’s like to serve on the Obama administration.
Admittedly, she’s still a long shot, but I’d love to see Janet Napolitano speak at my graduation.
3- NBC News Anchor Brian Williams: Fordham got Tom Brokaw as its speaker, so why not go for his successor? Williams is a vocal Roman Catholic who was born in New York and tapes NBC Nightly News in Manhattan, making him a perfect fit for St. John’s.
Before headlining NBC’s major news program, he served as the network’s chief White House correspondent, and his experience would lend itself to a terrific commencement address.
Most importantly, he’s not currently booked to give a commencement address at any universities, so the chances of landing him might be pretty realistic.
4- Author Toni Morrison: This Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning author is not entirely out of the question. She just recently released her latest novel – A Mercy – in late 2008 and, though she is 78 years old, I could see her delivering an extremely inspiring address to the graduating seniors.
Her novels, which deal largely with gender and race, make her one of the most important and studied contemporary authors, so her appearance at St. John’s University would be a very notable feather in the school’s proverbial cap.
5- New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick: Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but landing a prestigious reporter the likes of Remnick would make St. John’s stand out amongst its peers.
He’s been editor of The New Yorker since 1998, was a Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1993 book, Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. He’s given commencement addresses in the past, and I’m sure he’d have a lot to say to the St. John’s graduates.
St. John’s Media Relations told me that they hope to make the official announcement of commencement speaker sometime in early April. When that announcement does come, I’m not sure if any of the people on my short list will be the chosen one, but I’ll continue to cross my fingers. I’d still be jealous of Notre Dame, but at least St. John’s would have a big name for itself, and someone that students, and parents, could get excited about.