Bloomberg to address graduates

NY mayor will be the 2008 Commencement speaker, officials announced yesterday

· February 19, 2008, 5:00 am

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will address the graduating class at Commencement on May 19.


New York Mayor and Bloomberg, L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg will address this year's graduating class, University officials announced yesterday in a press release.

Bloomberg will speak at Penn's 252nd Commencement on Monday, May 19 and will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Six other honorary degree recipients will join Bloomberg, including Grammy Award-winning musician Paquito D'Rivera and current Harvard President and former Penn History professor Drew Faust.

"We are honored that Mayor Bloomberg has agreed to speak at Penn's 252nd Commencement," President Amy Gutmann said. "His remarkable achievements as a highly successful entrepreneur, noted philanthropist and tireless public servant stand, in the tradition of Penn's founder Ben Franklin, as an inspiration to us all."

Bloomberg has been on the list of potential speakers for several years, according to University Secretary Leslie Kruhly. The committee was able to confirm him last year but wanted to confirm all the honoraries before making one comprehensive announcement.

Now in his second term as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has been credited with reducing crime, creating jobs and pushing for several environmental and public-health initiatives.

He also created the financial information company Bloomberg, L.P. Bloomberg has also made major philanthropic contributions and sits on the boards of charitable and educational organizations.

"He's impressive in a lot of ways - he's a businessman, a politician and a very active philanthropist, and each of those dimensions can relate to different students," Wharton senior and class president Puneet Singh said. Both he and Kruhly believed Bloomberg was comparable with commencement speakers at peer universities this year.

The selection process begins with an open student nomination process, but the final decision is made by the Trustees' Committee on Honorary Degrees.

Singh described the speaker selection criteria of the senior class board to be threefold: someone who is a leader of their industry, has proven to be philanthropic and is currently relevant and exciting to students.

Kruhly would not give the names of other potential speakers that had been considered.

She commented on the strength and diversity of this year's honorary group as a whole, which also includes an astrophysicist and South African leader against apartheid.

"What's also interesting about Penn is that students are more interested in politics than we think," said Singh, citing rapid ticket sales for political speakers. Singh said he did not think Bloomberg's political views would be a source of alienation for students.

After former Secretary of State James Baker was named Commencement speaker last year, the Penn Israel Coalition protested his selection, citing disagreement with his foreign-policy views.

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