POLITICIANS SHOULD HAVE TO BUY ‘PODIUM TIME’
TO SPEAK AT HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE GRADUATIONS
By David Maril
High school and college commencements represent significant milestones. Why, then, on such an important day for graduates and their families, are so many keynote speakers duds?
Too often colleges and high schools settle for tiresome hacks who are only interested in promoting themselves and pushing their personal agendas.
Whether good or bad, I can’t even remember who spoke at my graduation from Park School in Baltimore (at Brooklandville, near Pikesville). However in college, at Clark University, in Worcester, Mass., I do recall Kevin White, a former mayor of Boston, launching into a forgettable cheerleading session about politics.
It sticks out in my mind because the weather was hot and his rambling speech was so boring. At the time (1972), White was considered a promising liberal Democrat who might rise to national prominence. It never happened. One of his downfalls was probably too many speeches like the one I heard at Clark.
To me, the worst choice for a commencement speaker will always be a politician who is either in office or planning to run. These people jump at the chance to speak at such events because it’s an opportunity to promote themselves as caring individuals who are supporting education, positive values — and the next generation of voters.
When politicians address graduates, the focus subtly shifts into campaign mode and the talk is primarily about them and their so-called accomplishments.