Early in December 2010, Butler students learned—via a Butler Connection e-mail—that outgoing university President Bobby Fong would serve as the keynote speaker for commencement in May. While we at The Butler Collegian are not opposed to Fong addressing the audience as one of the speakers, we are confused as to why he is the keynote speaker for the event.
Perhaps this wouldn’t bother us so much if the keynote speaker for University of Notre Dame’s graduating ceremonies wasn’t U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or the famous music composer Quincy Jones hadn’t spoken at Indiana University’s commencement in 2010.
Other universities in Indiana have reached out to diverse and prominent individuals to serve as inspirational speakers to the classes they bid farewell to—why can’t Butler?
It isn’t that we don’t like Fong, but he is such a common fixture on campus that his serving as keynote speaker is almost overkill.
Once a week throughout his presidency, President Fong has held “open forums” in Starbucks within Atherton Union. During these forums, students can approach Fong to discuss any issue on campus that they have grievances with or just to get an exclusive preview into future plans for the university.
Although these forums are a wonderful idea, they have made Fong exceedingly accessible and for this reason, he is not a foreign keynote speaker to the graduating class.
Over the years, Butler University has hosted speakers such as Colin Powell, President George H.W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright. All of these speakers prove that Butler University has the ability to attract prominent speakers. Why can’t we get speakers like this for our graduation?
Generally, commencement speakers at the collegiate level are celebrities within their specific fields.
They include influential persons who have served as keynote commencement speakers in the past, such as former Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, who spoke at universities around the nation.
A big theme behind college graduation is the transition into the working world. Therefore, many universities bring in highly accomplished and influential keynote speakers to inspire and excite graduates.
The fact that Butler is sticking to Fong as our keynote speaker signifies a lack of creative effort.
The university should also give more consideration to the opinions of its graduating students.
This is their last big college experience, therefore it should be more memorable than hearing another personalized speech from their university’s president.
Earlier this academic year, seniors were sent an e-mail asking who they would prefer as a keynote speaker. Fong was never on the original list, so how did the university end up selecting him?
All Butler students are aware of the “Butler Bubble” effect that can take hold after several weeks on campus. The fact that the university selected our own president to serve as keynote speaker is the epitome of this “bubble.”
While we appreciate all that President Fong has done for our university, we wish that we could have a more diverse individual to bid farewell to our seniors.