Let the Commencement Announcements, er, Commence!

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While we’re still anticipating who will be speaking at Columbia’s commencement this year, Bwog tipster Julia Kite notifies us that the crimsonites in Cambridge have invited none other than Harvard drop-out/Microsoft mogul Bill Gates to speak on June 7th. On top of that, Billy’s finally getting his diploma too — Harvard is presenting Gates with an honorary degree at the commencement, 32 years after leaving the school. The Harvard Crimson states that it still awaits the College Class Day speaker announcement, meanwhile. Perhaps another primetime television actor?

At other institutions, UPenn’s got former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Wellesley has invited alumna Madeleine Albright (also speaking at UNC-Chapel Hill). Yale undergrads do not have a commencement speaker, but Newsweek International editor and Yale alum Fareed Zakaria will be speaking for Yale College’s class day. Meanwhile, Barack Obama turned us down for class day, but he’ll be speaking for  commencement at Southern New Hampshire University.

As for Columbia, we expect to hear the news sometime within the next month (and in case you were wondering, SEAS dean Galil has complete control over who speaks for engineers, and usually announces his choice his choice in mid-April.)


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  1. what the fuck?  

    alright now i think obama is just spiting columbia. why else would he turn us down for southern new hampshire "no one has EVER heard of us" university?

  2. Barack Obama  


  3. Sprinkles

    That's news to me - can anyone confirm that Obama was indeed asked, but turned us down?

    (if true, it probably has something to do with how despite it craploads of money, Columbia won't reimburse speakers' travel expenses)

  4. DPD  

    New Hampshire = "first primary state"; Obama will get a great deal of press for speaking at a local college commencement, it's basically a campaign stop.

  5. huh?  

    isn't bollinger the sole commencement speaker?

      • umm  

        all those headline names were people speaking at individual ceremonies for the specific schools. the university commencement has only one speaker, the president, and a few honorary degree recipients. as the old article you cite states:

        "At the main University Commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 17 at 10:30 p.m. on Low Plaza, University President George Rupp will deliver the address, and honorary degrees will be presented to the following: Former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, who is credited with helping spur America's economic boom; AIDS re-searcher and former Time Person of the Year David Ho, President Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, who helped mediate the 1999 crisis in Kosovo; Paul Marks, physician and former cancer center president; Judith Jamison, dancer and artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and Oscar Schachter, Fish Professor Emeritus of International Law and Diplomacy at Columbia."

        it's not even clear whether the equivelents of these people at our ceremony will really speak all that much. it seems like us CC grads are stuck with fox, prezbo, and at best some semifamous people who will deliver a few token lines after receiving their token degrees.

        • well  

          there's a difference between class day speaker and commencement speaker. Yes, PresBo is the only one who will really speak at commencement itself, but the whole schpeel is about the "commencement ceremony speakers," if you want to be specific.

          • yeah  

            I understand the difference...but the "commencement ceremonies" listed are for the equivalent for other schools (gore was speaking at the law school ceremony, for example)...they have nothing to do with university commencement, which is the only other ceremony (besides class day) CC grads attend.

  6. i may be wrong

    but aren't NH and iowa becoming less important as more states move toward the feb 5th primary?

  7. DHI  

    Do you actually hold it against Obama that he doesn't have love for Columbia having gone here for two years and not socialized much? He doesn't have an obligation to do Columbia any favors if he doesn't want to, and he's not a bad guy for not wanting to.

  8. bleck

    he went here for three years. whether he wants to admit it or not, columbia did a lot for him; even if it was merely setting him up for the next stage of his life at harvard law. and having both columbia and harvard law on his resume also helped him land his teaching position at the university of chicago. if he wasn't socializing, he was (hopefully) i'm sure the university provided him with some intellectual benefit as well.

    • I mean  

      Obama is obviously trying to derive some cred from his "international relations" minor here, in order to show he has some "expertise" in the field. how about some quid pro quo, especially given he's falsifying his columbia credentials to look more impressive while the university looks the other way?

  9. questions  

    1) why did he turn down the invitation? was it a scheduling conflict?

    2) so what if he doesn't rep Columbia. Maybe he didn't like it here. If you didn't like the experience would you go around repping Columbia?

  10. ever consider  

    ...that some people don't support Obama and wouldn't want him to come to Class Day anyway? There are plenty more interesting speakers out there...

  11. can someone...  

    ...actually point to some concrete information indicating that Obama was asked and declined? I wouldn't necessarily be surprised, but do we know that this actually happened?

  12. but if he were smart  

    he would be considering the positive repercussions of speaking at columbia. think how many students have attended columbia (past and present) and how proud they will have been to know that obama is speaking at their school. if he delivers an amazing speech, he would mobilize so many more voters than for SNHU. also, isn't he a bit worried about beating hilary in the new york vote? speaking at columbia would do wonders.

    • no,  

      Obama won't be able to win the NY primary against Hillary - she's too popular here. It would be like John Kerry campaigning in Texas.

      Delivering a speech at Columbia won't really mobilize people. The best he could hope for is that a few Columbia alumni will be inspired to reach into their deep pockets and donate to his campaign. Even if that is true, there's much more benefit to be gained from the free press in New Hampshire. By the way, someone asked whether NH and Iowa were becoming less important considering there are more Feb. 5 primaries; they're becoming slightly less important, but are still huge, since candidates can gain a ton of momentum if they win the first primary states, and lose a ton of they underperform.

      Sprinkles, it would be a bad political move because the right-wing has an axe to grind with Columbia. It wouldn't be surprising if Obama's presence at U of Havana North became the topic of a "Talking Points Memo" on O'Reilly's show. No doubt Obama's handlers want to avoid that, especially since he's trying to appear like a unifying figure.

      My hope is that, whether he's elected president or not, Obama will visit Columbia after the election. Even if his experience here sucked, surely he has to appreciate that he got his degree here. The proof? Check out his website, where one of the early "biography" videos states, "With the help of scholarships, Barack worked his way up, earning a degree in international relations from Columbia University." OK, so he's not the one writing the ads, but still, I think there's a chance (maybe George Stephanopoulous can persuade him to visit).

  13. look  

    Even St. John's did better. They got Stephanopoulos. Still better even though he spoke here too recently for us to get him again.

  14. Liberals  

    1) Who cares about Barack Fucking Obama?

    2) Thanks to the Che wannabes who took the stage at the minutemen extravaganza, nobody notable is going to want to speak here because of the ISO fags.


    I hope you're being facetious about Columbia announcing it's commencement speaker. Because Columbia always has the same speaker- the University President. This is one "tradition" that could stand changing. Granted, Bollinger is actually a pretty damned good speaker.

    Individual schools invite prominent figures to address their individual Class Day Ceremonies, which are smaller celebrations. However the official "graduation" at which degrees are officially conferred (i.e. PrezBo 'activates' the pieces of paper you received at Class Day) is the big Commencement.

    This is the reason why Class Day speakers are so problematic at Columbia. We can't draw the big names like Obama because we don't let guests speak at University Commencement, and the college grads want whoever speaks at Class Day to make up for it, which is a much harder sell. Class Day should be fun, not serious. But we try to mesh it all together in one shot and nobody wins.

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