Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 18, 2021

University selects Michael Bloomberg as commencement speaker

By MIN-SEO KIM | May 14, 2021

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Center for American Progress / CC BY-ND 2.0

While some students understand the University’s decision, others believe Bloomberg was not the appropriate choice to deliver this year’s commencement speech. 

The University announced on May 14 that billionaire, philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will give the commencement speech for the Class of 2021 on May 27. This year will be Bloomberg’s third time as the commencement speaker. 

Bloomberg, a Hopkins alum, expressed appreciation for being chosen, stressing the importance of the University’s role in his life and highlighting the graduating class’s perseverance through the pandemic.

In an email to The News-Letter, Assistant Vice President for External Relations Karen Lancaster reported that University leaders chose Bloomberg because they believe that he best represents the University’s values.

“He is a doer who embraces big ideas and then brings them to life,” Lancaster wrote. “In this, he embodies the essence of his alma mater.”

Senior Julia Zeng does not agree with the University’s choice.

“Right now,  given that the pandemic has had huge economic impacts and with anti-Asian hate and anti-Black hate, I don’t know if a billionaire white man was the most apt choice to give us something inspiring [with which] to walk forth,” Zeng said. “I don’t know if he will give us any substantial advice in our graduating year.”

Zeng believes that student input is necessary to choose interesting speakers, citing student-led speaker series such as the Foreign Affairs Symposium. According to Zeng, the University should have considered more input from seniors in particular.

“Administrators said that they chose Bloomberg early, but this shouldn’t be an excuse to not ask students for their opinion,” she said. “This year, I had to let go of so many things as a senior and now commencement is another thing that I’m not very excited about. It just feels very fake to me.” 

According to senior Collete Chang thought the decision was predictable. 

“I am honestly not at all surprised that the speaker is Mike Bloomberg, given his previous contributions to the University,” she said. 

Bloomberg has donated over $1.8 billion in financial aid for the Class of 2021 as well as $150 million for the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative.

In an email to The News-Letter, Senior Class President William Cho expressed support for the decision. 

“It’s exciting to have our most prominent and influential alum as our commencement speaker!” Cho wrote.

Junior Fabiana Corsi suggested that the chosen speaker should acknowledge key developments concerning race in Baltimore, including the city police department and the University’s private police force.

“Personally, [I believe] the ideal commencement speaker should be somewhat reflective of the unique year that the graduating class has had,” Corsi said. “I’m not sure that Michael Bloomberg will be a sincere speaker on the key issues that have shaped 2021.”

Michelle Limpe contributed reporting to this article. 

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Julia Zeng was a current member of the Student Government Association. 

The News-Letter regrets this error.

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