As many of you have seen on your social media accounts, tis the season of countless graduations. I myself will be sitting through one this Thursday to support my graduating cheerleaders. At each commencement, a school invites a speaker to advise these students of post-grad life and send them off with well-wishes. I know this year at Endicott College, my alma mater, Boston Bruins alumni Ray Bourque spoke as an honorary doctorate recipient. Nancy Frates, mother of Pete Frates (starters of the viral social media campaign the ALS Ice Bucket challenge), also spoke as an honorary doctor of humane letters.
So why am I talking about all of this? Well, I found an interesting article on Boston.com that explains the different types of commencement speakers. And since a graduation ceremony is a large-scale event that people take a lengthy amount of time to plan, I thought it was only right to share how they might go about selecting invited speakers. Though during commencement most of us are sitting there trying not to pass out from heat stroke or the countless beers that may have been drunken the night before, there was a reason this person was chosen to lay it on you. Whether it is someone with an inspirational story you will remember for a lifetime or someone with nagging advice you won't remember tomorrow, here are the six following categories invited speakers will fall in to.
When it comes to politicians, you’ve got your Big Deal National, Minor Deal National, Big Deal Local, or Minor Deal Local speaker. Examples: President Obama spoke at Barnard this year as a Big Deal National. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is delivering a speech at Walters State Community College this year, which counts as both Minor Deal National and Big Deal Local.
These are the most exciting commencement speakers, as people have generally heard of them before. For example, Natalie Portman is speaking at Harvard’s Class Day. Harvard is fancy, so they also get a Commencement speaker, Deval Patrick, whom is a Big Deal Local. Sometimes celebrities who’ve been out of the spotlight for a while pop their heads up, like LaVar Burton from Reading Rainbow, who spoke at UMass Lowell.
These people are saving the world. Their speeches are supposed to inspire students. An example of a Do-gooder is Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative—he’s speaking at Holy Cross this year.
Entrepreneurs are big gets for colleges. Especially good-looking, tech-drenched people like Jason Kilar, who spoke at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Older, successful business people who are wildly successful in their fields are also coveted, like Richard Saul Wurman, the guy who founded the TED conference. Babson got him this year.
Alumni might fall into any of the other categories listed here. An example of the legit kind of alumni speaker is Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer for the United States who went to—and is speaking at—MIT this year.
A current student’s parents
A graduate's mom or dad may be a notable choice since they may be recognized as falling in to one of the above categories and happen to have a student in the graduating class.
If you're on the commencement planning committee, we hope these invited speaker categories help you to devour the details of graduations for years to come!