Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2024

Pop culture could supply graduation speakers

By DEVIN ALESSIO | May 7, 2012

May 3, 2012

Hey, I'm Devin. I'm the new Arts & Entertainment Editor for The News-Letter, and I'm pretty darn excited about that. I'm a pretty excitable person, especially if country or indie music, Ryan Gosling or ice cream is somehow involved. When I'm not writing for The News-Letter, I can be found pretending to be artsy in Chocolatea, drinking inordinate amounts of coffee and painstakingly writing the biography for my future Chocolate Frog trading card. If you haven't thought about what you would want your Chocolate Frog trading card to say, then I'm assuming you must go to Loyola or Towson, in which case you should promptly leave Maxie's or WaWa and bring this fine work of journalism back to your own university's drinking establishment. Disgruntled digression aside, I've been spending the last few weeks thinking about how, two weeks away from completing my sophomore year, I'm almost halfway done with my Hopkins career. While I can't help but wonder how I'm suddenly old enough to lease an apartment, cook my own food and corrupt future Blue Jays to my liking, I'm sad that some of my closest friends are about to graduate. Since I hope to attend commencement to support them as they transition to the next phase of their lives, I couldn't help but pay particular attention to the announcement about who the commencement speaker is to be this year. While graduation itself is always memorable, commencement speeches may not be. Hopkins tends to set the precedent for graduation speakers: Journalist Fareed Zakaria, who addressed last year's graduates, is speaking at Harvard and Duke this year, and Hopkins alum Mayor Mike Bloomberg gave the commencement speech two years ago, and spoke at George Washington University the following year. Yet I was surprised when Hopkins announced that alum Sam Palmisano, Chairman of the Board at IBM, would address the class of 2012. While I'm excited for Mr. Palmisano to impart some of his knowledge upon this year's graduates, I know that I personally would find any of the following figures from pop culture just as insightful. Ron Daniels, if you're reading this, please take notes for the class of 2014. Bill Nye the Science Guy: He gave the commencement speech back in 2008 and I think by the time I graduate it will have been far enough in the past to have him return. Only videos of William S. Nye would make me excited enough to actually pay attention in middle school science class (I was always a Writing Sems major at heart), and I think that my friends in Whiting would get a kick out of his appearance as well. I also wish that he would conclude his speech by saying "Thank you for joining me on 'Considering the Following.'" Jon Stewart: I've been obsessed with Jon Stewart since my best friend and I went to see a live taping of his show last summer, in which he coincidentally interviewed Fareed Zakaria - further proof that I will never escape this place. He's won 16 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards for his coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and controlled Stephen Colbert's Super PAC for a time. He's an example of what it means to be smart, funny and humble, and I think he could make a kick-a**, insightful (and sarcastic) graduation speech. Suzanne Collins: She wrote The Hunger Games, arguably the most widely-read and influential book series since Harry Potter. Need I say more? Bono: The U2 frontman is a jack-of-all-trades: he's been named Time's Person of the Year, won 22 Grammy Awards, been granted honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Honors aside, Bono's also world-renowned for his humanitarian work raising HIV/AIDS awareness in Africa. And he does this all while dressing extremely stylishly. Britney Spears: Go with me on this one. In 2007, Britney dealt with the death of an aunt, was divorced, completed drug rehabilitation and shaved her head in the culmination of a nervous breakdown. While she never attended college, I think she has the resilience to survive the stresses of a university such as Hopkins, and I'm sure she would have many relevant insights to share about surviving the real world. I've also been secretly hoping that the graduation ceremonies would break into a musical number in which Ron Daniels danced as he did at Dance Marathon, but I'm doubtful. On second thought, I take that back - maybe Britney isn't the best choice. But one can imagine.

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