I honestly don’t remember my college graduation speaker. Some guy, I think, but I don’t know his name, affiliation or why he was relevant. Can you relate?
More than 20 years have passed since I joined fellow members of the St. John Fisher College Class of 1986 in accepting our undergraduate diplomas, so I hope my memory lapse is forgivable. I do remember the National Anthem was performed by jazz legend Chuck Mangione (“Rochester’s own Chuck Mangione” as many locals called him back then—our town’s not exactly a hotbed for the cultivation of celebrities, as you probably know). Yeah, I remember that. Not the speaker.
I highly doubt that, 10 or 20 years from now, members of the RIT Class of 2007 will struggle to recall their graduation speaker. Wow, Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States! Whatever your politics, you have to admit, that’s pretty cool!
I think a lot of us here believe the ability to attract a commencement speaker the caliber of President Clinton is another sign that RIT has arrived. During his first visit to campus over a year ago, he truly seemed impressed by the campus and its community. He talked a lot about science and technology education and the need for young Americans to pursue related careers. It’s the key to maintaining our competitive edge in a global marketplace, and RIT is helping to make that happen.
And what an engaging character! During that visit, President Clinton went out of his way (much to the chagrin of Secret Service) to sign every book and shake every hand. Even staunch critics of his presidency—those on hand that day—couldn’t help but be impressed.
Will RIT graduates remember this year’s commencement speaker? No doubt. Will RIT’s prestige get a boost from hosting this year’s commencement speaker? Let’s hope.