I’m sure there are people out there who remember their commencement speakers forever. I’m not one of them. I vaguely remember a woman speaking in broad terms about leadership, or friendship, or maybe even both. Some of this year’s graduates are going to find that half-hour speech the most riveting part of graduation — probably those lucky kids at Goucher, who’ll get to listen to a born storyteller — while many will spend that time daydreaming about their post-graduation plans. Here’s a run-down of the rest of 2012’s commencement speakers and their relative snooze-scores:
Johns Hopkins: Sam Palmisano, chairman of IBM. Pros: Baltimore native, once a backup saxophonist for The Temptations (!?). Cons: A computer businessman. Looks straight-laced. Prediction: An emphasis on hard work and extensive preparation; football metaphors.
Loyola University Maryland: Reverend Greg Boyle, founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, the nation’s largest gang intervention program. Pros: Boyle has done plenty of genuine good deeds in some of LA’s roughest neighborhoods; he also has a genuine twinkle in his eye. Cons: Too good? Prediction: Speech as a spiritual call to action.
UMBC: Dr. Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation. Pros: He’s not just a researcher; he also taught science at Brown and MIT, so he knows how to talk to undergraduates. Cons: Engineer AND bureaucrat. Prediction: “Never stop asking questions.”
Notre Dame of Maryland: Sean McManus, CBS Sports Chairman. Pros: Personal connection to Baltimore (his parents were from here); the man is in the entertainment business, so he knows how storytelling should work. Cons: In the promotional photo, he’s wearing all beige. Prediction: Baseball metaphors.
University of Maryland: John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Pros: “the federal government’s chief people person”; a lion at the National Zoo is named after him. Cons: “More than 20 years of experience in the federal government.” Prediction: The phrase, “think outside the box” will be used.
Morgan State: Dr. Shirley Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Pros: Described by Time Magazine as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science”; holder of 49 (!!) honorary doctoral degrees. Cons: This lady gives a lot of speeches; she might be tired of it by now. Prediction: An uplifting personal story as an inspirational tool.
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