Notable College Commencement Speakers 2011
By Puja Shah
Four years of late-nights either writing papers and studying for too many accounting exams or reminiscing with roommates about the bad (but really good) decisions you made freshman year all come down to one day – actually, just a few hours of sitting impatiently waiting to walk across the stage for a handshake that will feel like a million dollars. Graduation isn’t like any other milestone in our lives; it’s one we’ve worked towards facing challenges, making mistakes, and finding ourselves along the way.
So for a ceremony that celebrates a chapter of your academic success, will you remember who you were sitting next to? Will you remember who tripped walking across the stage? Will you remember the keynote speaker and their inspirational message to send you off into the real world? The graduating seniors at these schools are guaranteed at least the latter. From comedians and actors to Thomas Friedman (Tulane University) and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Washington University in Saint Louis), this notable list of Commencement Speakers for 2011 will be sure to leave a lasting impression among graduates and guests.
Among this list are the President and First Lady who will each be addressing more than just one graduating class. President Obama is scheduled to speak at the United States Coast Guard Academy after Miami-Dade College. Michelle Obama will be speaking at the University of Northern Iowa, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Spelman College (after four years of campaigning for her to address the senior class). The list of politicians does not end there – others addressing the Class of 2011 include Bill Clinton (NYU) and Al Gore (Hamilton College).
Then there are the business leaders who, through successful and ethical behavior, have inspired us over the year. We hope they will share their stories of challenges and successes but we hope even more that they will share advice for how we can avoid making the same mistakes as generations before us. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg (Barnard College), Apple Computer Inc. co-found Steve Wozniak (Michigan State University), and PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Indra K. Nooyi (Wake Forest University) are among the most popular in this category.
Harvard University opted for a lighthearted speaker, Amy Poehler. They certainly weren’t alone in staying away from business and political figures. Other entertainers on this list include Stephen Colbert (Northwestern University), Tom Hanks (Yale University), Morgan Spurlock (Salt Lake Community College), Brooke Shields (Princeton University), and Denzel Washington (University of Pennsylvania).
Whether they will leave us laughing or questioning how will we tackle the problems of the future, these keynote speakers have certainly conjured up excitement for their respective graduates and guests. Congratulations, Class of 2011!
Puja Shah is a graduating senior at Bentley University. The StudentAdvisor team would like to wish her and all graduating seniors this year the best of luck!