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Stop by SMC Graduation

John-Paul Witt | Thursday, March 8, 2007

I’d like to thank my fellow reporters, the lovely Amanda Michaels, Kelly Meehan and Kate Antonacci for informing me about what I’m writing about today.

When I read Kate’s article on Feb. 16 about General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt coming to Notre Dame to speak at graduation, I felt a little miffed.

“Surely,” I thought, “the speech will be relevant to the theme of ‘Go forth and do good,’ that all graduation speeches are geared towards, but what about for students outside of Mendoza?”

Honestly, we’re Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish. The preeminent Catholic university in the world. We have pull.

Then I read Amanda’s column of Feb. 19, a list of 65 people who would be better graduation speakers than Immelt.

No offense, but I can add a few hundred names to her list.

One of them is Samuel Alito, the speaker SMC secured for their graduation ceremony.

I read Kelly’s article of March 5, and I was shocked. I wasn’t surprised that SMC could pull a graduation speaker of that caliber, a Justice of the Supreme Court, but that ND couldn’t, or chose not to.

Let’s delve a little deeper.

According to Fr. Jenkins, Immelt’s “a business executive worth emulating.” He’s famous for his environmentally-friendly policies. GE is apparently the “Most Admired Company in the World” according to Fortune magazine.

That all sounds great, but last year’s speaker was the President of Ireland. In that capacity, Mary McAleese had experiences that students from almost all disciplines can relate to, unlike Immelt.

Even if he is an exceptionally skilled business executive, he’s that, a business executive.

The generic, motivational-esque speech I feel we can expect from him is a shadow of what Alito, someone who confronts national issues of ethics and morality and renders decisions that effect all Americans, will say.

Don’t get me wrong. I love businesspeople and business students. O’Shag isn’t that far from Mendoza.

But a large number of ND students are going on to careers in politics, academia or a professional discipline. Don’t they deserve someone who can speak to their interests, concerns and dreams?

Granted, no speaker is perfect. An engineer might not get as much out of a given speaker as an Archie, as an English major, etc.

But shouldn’t the first criteria for a speaker be someone who can appeal a) to the Spirit of Notre Dame and b) to most, if not all, of the graduating class?

So, I say, spend a few hours at the SMC graduation. You might just hear something that’ll change your life.

I’d also like to encourage any of you who are interested to attend “Seeking the Heart’s Desire,” a conference in honor of Fr. John Dunne, CSC, a great man, teacher, and mentor. It’s from March 30 to April 1 in McKenna Hall.

Finally, I’d like to give props to the finches on a statue outside the Riley Hall of Art and Design. Good job chirping despite the snow, wind and cold. Keep it up.