Commencement speakers typically represent society's most remarkable and varied personalities and achievements. In recent years, for example, Penn has welcomed a revered ex-president (Jimmy Carter), a Nobel Prize-winning poet (Seamus Heaney) and a lively entertainer (Bill Cosby) to deliver remarks on the University's ultimate day of celebration. Rarely do these speakers fail to entertain and enlighten. But far too often, Penn's Commencement speakers -- however brilliant -- tend to represent movements and time periods that are, frankly, somewhat buried in the past. Not anymore. This year's graduating class will likely be met with an entirely different message when they don their caps and gowns this May, when Arizona Senator John McCain visits campus to give the annual Commencement address. McCain -- who has gained fame as a former Vietnamese prisoner-of-war, a one-time Republican presidential candidate and a crusader for campaign finance reform -- will likely bring a highly energetic, entertaining and inspirational tone with him when he comes to Franklin Field on May 21. Like the University's most recent speakers, McCain has a lifetime of accomplishment and anecdotes from which to build an entertaining address. And while the decision to invite him to Commencement has certainly come as a surprise, he certainly brings the worldly stature befitting an Ivy League Commencement speaker. But in this case, the senator offers even more. Unlike past figures, he brings the insights and timeliness of a figure making waves in the public arena today. His commentary can touch on the many adventures of his past; it can likewise include reference to his current congressional battle to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. In that way, McCain brings with him a dual perspective that makes him a remarkable personality and a remarkable choice to help guide the Class of 2001 into their new life as alumni -- no matter what their political affiliation.Comments powered by Disqus
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