Commencement speaker pros


It’s almost time for the next step — graduation. On Friday, I’ll be walking across that stage, fake diploma in hand, not sure what I’ll be doing the next week. I don’t have a job lined up at this point, and it’s really disheartening to wonder if you’ve done everything you can in order to secure a job. Another part of me is feeling down because I know it’ll get a lot harder to see most of my friends after I graduate, especially if I’m home for an extended period of time. And yet another portion of me is stressed because I have so little time to finish all of my projects and papers as well as beginning to move out.

Of course, I’m also slightly dreading the graduation ceremony itself. I’m obviously looking forward to crossing that stage, and I’m excited to see some of my closest friends as well as my boyfriend do the same, since some are in the same college as me. But the ceremony will be long, and the day itself will probably just result in me being extremely tired since I’m driving back to Rockford post-commencement.

But I honestly think I would be more excited if Illinois State ceremonies had commencement speakers aside from student representatives and President Larry Dietz. I’m looking forward to hearing their speeches, especially with this being the first semester with Dietz as president, but I look at other universities and think about how cool it would be to have a commencement speaker from someone outside of ISU.

I know it would make the already long ceremony even longer, but I think it would be really motivational. I obviously don’t know yet what President Dietz and the student representative for the College of Arts and Sciences will say, but hearing from someone else who graduated with a degree in the same college as me could be inspiring. The College of Arts and Sciences will have the most graduates, with more than 1,000 bachelor’s degrees and nearly 300 master’s degrees being handed out. It can be difficult to find a speaker that would appeal to people in all majors, considering that this college houses those in everything from biology to journalism to social work. But hearing someone successful in the mathematics field would still be inspiring to me, especially if he or she had received the degree from Illinois State.

If commencement speakers must be paid, I can surely understand why ISU does not have any, since the school has six different graduation ceremonies. But I still think that there should be more discussion. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’d almost rather hear from someone who earned his or her degree however many years ago versus a student representative. I know, generally, what the student’s obstacles were, unless he or she had some sort of other difficulties in earning the degree. I don’t know what the obstacles were 12 years ago or so. And I think that perhaps it could be seen as more worthwhile to pay commencement speakers if they were part of the Redbird family, versus someone else the university was just able to bring here.

My sister attended Bradley University, and I remember that four years ago, she had a commencement speaker who I actually enjoyed listening to, which is kind of hard to imagine, especially since I was 17 years old at the time. I’m sure that if Bradley hadn’t had one, the ceremony would have been much shorter, and I actually had no idea who the speaker was prior to her being introduced (it was Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker), but I still didn’t mind.

I’m sure that ISU has its reasons for not having commencement speakers, and it could just be due to the sheer number of ceremonies, but I like hearing successful people talk about their stories, especially as I struggle to feel successful since I don’t have a job yet. Other students may feel similarly to me, and I think ISU should keep that in mind.


Grace Johnson is a senior publishing major for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to


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