Seniors pleased with Biden for commencement
Students are generally excited to see the vice president speak in May
March 12, 2013, 10:03 pm·
A year after students expressed disappointment over the selection of social activist Geoffrey Canada as commencement speaker, members of the senior class appear to be pleased with the upcoming appearance of Vice President Joe Biden at graduation.
Following Penn’s announcement Tuesday morning that Biden will be delivering the commencement address on May 13, students from both sides of the political aisle have said they are excited about the decision to bring the vice president to campus.
“The fact that one of the most respected and charismatic leaders around today is coming to our graduation to speak is something we’ll remember for a long time,” said College and Wharton senior Jonathon Youshaei, the senior class president. “It’s going to be an incredible moment for Penn and the Class of 2013.”
Since Biden’s selection was made public, some have begun considering what they would like the vice president to discuss in his speech.
While some seniors said they would enjoy hearing Biden’s views on the current climate in Washington, D.C., others hope he will avoid overly politicizing the address.
“I’d think he’ll avoid some of the more controversial political issues, especially because this is in a university commencement speech setting,” Engineering senior Scott Ventre said.
College senior and former Penn Political Coalition Chair Isabel Friedman added that she would most like to hear Biden discuss his journey from “humble and scrappy beginnings” to the vice presidency today.
Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., and has long been considered a politician whose message resonates well with blue-collar communities.
In addition to Biden’s appeal as a commencement speaker to both Democratic and Republican students, some have also pointed out that the vice president’s message will likely cut across all of Penn’s four undergraduate schools.
“There are probably a lot of things that he has to deal with as vice president that relate to engineering and the different regulatory agencies, and I’d be interested in hearing him speak about some of that,” said Engineering senior Vamsi Vuppala, who believes that Biden holds appeal throughout the entire senior class — even for students who are not interested in politics.
Biden’s appearance has an added significance for some.
College senior Graham White, who took last semester off to work on the advance planning team for Biden on the campaign trail, said the vice president’s speech will end his Penn experience “full circle.”
“Biden means what he says and says what he means, and that’s going to translate into a great commencement speech,” White added.
Not all, however, are as enthusiastic about the University’s choice in commencement speaker.
“In a way, I sort of view commencement as a formality and not an enlightening or transformative experience,” said College senior Andrew Ciampa, who described himself as apathetic about the selection. “There are only a handful of speakers who would really engage me in that event … and Biden isn’t really one of them.”
While College senior Adrienne Edwards, chair of the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women, is looking forward to seeing Biden, she hopes the University will do more in the future to bring in female speakers. Biden marks the seventh male speaker in a row to appear at commencement, as well as the 18th in the past 20 years.
“I think it’s a great choice — it’s awesome that we have such a well-known speaker, especially because he’s been a lot more vocal than other vice presidents,” added College junior Arielle Klepach, president of College Republicans. “Penn has definitely set the bar high for next year.”