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2012 commencement speaker is disappointing

Patrick Hernandez | Thursday, March 29, 2012

Disclaimer: I am not a heartless robot.

Now that that’s out of the way, I would like to say what I believe many people are thinking but (likely) few will say openly: Notre Dame’s choice of Haley Scott DeMaria for a 2012 commencement speaker is disappointing.

Notre Dame has selected influential politicians, academics, captains of industry, human rights advocates and others to be commencement speakers. Many have been Catholic; some have been Notre Dame graduates. All have achieved great things and bettered humanity in some form. The vast majority have been able to give graduates practical advice regarding their future careers, which, in all honesty, is what most of us are thinking about these days.

Ms. DeMaria has a remarkable and inspiring story, and I’m sure few of us would meet such hardship with her tenacity. However, I must be blunt: she has little to offer my fellow graduates or myself. Previous commencement speakers changed American politics, improved our common discourse and lifted thousands out of poverty. Ms. DeMaria’s accomplishments, however inspiring, pale somewhat in comparison. To my knowledge, she will also have very little to offer us in the way of constructive career advice.

Some may point out that we needed to have a female commencement speaker. After five male speakers, I agree. But with all the influential, successful women who have contributed so much to the world, and with Notre Dame’s prestige, it smacks of nepotism and questionable judgment to choose someone so strongly affiliated with Notre Dame.

Our commencement should not be about one woman’s admittedly remarkable story nor her persistence in the face of obstacles. It should be about us, the graduates. The speaker should be someone who can tell us from experience how to accomplish great things and improve the lives of those around us. I have no doubt that we will, but I do not believe Ms. DeMaria is the right person for this job.


Patrick Hernandez



March 29