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Graduation orator gets good review

| Thursday, January 16, 2014

While Notre Dame’s 2014 commencement speaker might not be a household name on this side of the Atlantic, many of the seniors who will hear Lord Christopher Patten’s address on May 18 look forward to hearing the speech the prominent British politician will deliver.

Patten serves as chancellor of the University of Oxford and chair of the BBC Trust, and his last appearance at Notre Dame came during the 2012 Nanovic Forum, when he delivered a lecture titled “Europe, America and the Changing World Order.” Senior Francine Kim said although she did not initially recognize Patten’s name, she did some research on his background and now looks forward to hearing his address.

Courtesy of BBC TrustPhoto courtesy of the BBC Trust
“My first reaction was, ‘Who is that?’” Kim said. “I wished it was someone who I think is significant, especially because many of us have watched great innovators like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey speak. However, after doing a bit of research on Lord Patten, I feel that he offers a unique perspective as a politician who has accomplished a great deal at an international scale.”

Kim said the graduation ceremony in May is important to her regardless of the speaker.

“Of course we all want our graduation ceremony to be special, as it signifies all we have accomplished here at Notre Dame … so I hope he can offer us a little bit of advice and inspiration as we begin a new journey.

“I’m not particularly happy or unhappy about Lord Patten being named our commencement speaker because I feel that graduation from Notre Dame and celebrating the time that I have shared with my friends is enough to make graduation feel special.”

Senior Steve Fox spent last year in close proximity to Patten while studying abroad at Oxford University, although he said he was never able to interact with the chancellor while he was there.

“I had a fantastic experience at Oxford, but it’s a fairly large university and I didn’t have the chance to hear him speak or anything while I was there,” he said. “I think he has an interesting background, and I’m looking forward to hearing him … [though] I’m not really sure what to expect.

“I think I might be a bit more excited than others about having Lord Patten come, given my time at Oxford.”

The announcement of the commencement speaker was a much-anticipated event for senior Victoria Kay, and though she had not heard of Patten before yesterday, she said she is excited to hear his speech.

“Perhaps I put too much emphasis on this one person’s role, but I think that the commencement speaker has the unique opportunity to provide culminating thoughts on the end of our chapter here at Notre Dame and inspire us for our future ahead,” she said. “I hope to hear a little bit about his story, his passions and what inspired him to get where he is today. I want to hear about how he felt at our age and where he envisioned his future would take him.

“Lastly, I hope he can give us advice on how to approach this difficult but exciting transition in our lives. If he could get us laughing too, then I’d say he’d be a success.”

Although Kay said she was originally disappointed that Patten was not a name she recognized or had previously been interested in, she decided to keep an open mind and listen to what he has to say.

“You cannot deny that this man has had a wealth of experience, so I’m excited to hear his speech come graduation day,” she said.

A. James McAdams, director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, said he is “delighted” that Lord Patten will be returning to Notre Dame after his previous lecture in 2012, which was sponsored by the Institute.

“He is an incredible person, someone who has had a huge impact on the world stage,” McAdams said. “At the same time, as a Catholic leader, he is a natural fit for Notre Dame. On his last visit, I was impressed with how well he connected with the students.

“He has special insights into the kind of education we are seeking to provide, and I know how glad he will be to return to Notre Dame. He is a terrific choice to be our commencement speaker.”

Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]

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About Ann Marie Jakubowski

Senior News Writer, formerly Editor-in-Chief. English and Spanish double major, minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Grand Rapids, Mich., native. Notre Dame Class of 2015.

Contact Ann Marie