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Soon, the University will release the news that all seniors (okay, probably mostly their parents) have been waiting for with bated breath: Who will be the graduation speaker?

Commencement is a huge deal — even if seniors don’t want to think of it that way yet — and the person who sends us off into the Wild Blue Yonder matters. They need to be articulate and accomplished; most importantly, they have to have something to say. Penn’s last three speakers — James Baker III, Michael Bloomberg and Eric Schmidt — have all been solid choices, and grads listened to solid speeches. But they’re not the first people that would spring to my mind. It’s too late for me to make any impact on the decision (I’m guessing the announcement will come any day, though I have absolutely no knowledge of the decision), but here are my picks for inspiring, albeit maybe alternative, choices for the Commencement speaker.

1. Harper Lee: Now that we’ve lost J.D. Salinger, the To Kill a Mockingbird author is probably — literally ­— the world’s new Boo Radley. And it’s such a shame, because she wrote one of the most powerful books that we’re ever going to read. She gently taught us about tolerance, compassion and true courage. I can think of few better messages to hear as we head out into this crazy, mixed-up world of ours.

2. Arianna Huffington: She’s the head of one of the most active new-media empires, and I’m guessing many students log onto The Huffington Post several times a week. HuffPo covers everything from politics to entertainment, and even started investigative reporting. It’s not a perfect solution for the problems facing journalism and media today, but it’s definitely interesting, and the news organization is successful because of Huffington’s vision and hard work.

3. Brad Pitt: He combines the entertainment glamour with some serious humanitarian cred, much like 2004’s speaker, Bono. From rebuilding New Orleans using green design to helping the orphans that he and Angelina Jolie couldn’t fold into their brood, he’s taken an active interest in many troubled areas across the world. Plus, he’s really pretty to look at. Just shave the goatee, though.

4. Melinda Gates: Yes, she’s married to a genius, but more importantly, she’s the brilliant mind behind the incredibly generous Gates Foundation. Her husband has said the Foundation wouldn’t have started without her, and the issues she targets are ones that she is truly passionate about. The Foundation works on poverty, health and education worldwide. In Africa, it is donating serious money to reducing and eventually eradicating killers such as AIDS and malaria. It’s helping to find fluid and innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues, and that approach closely mirrors the dynamism of the Penn Compact. I’d love to see her — no Bill necessary — on that podium.

5. Chelsea Clinton: She’s young and hasn’t accomplished too much yet, but she’s a former Rhodes Scholar who knows her way around politics, business and philanthropy, and is currently getting a degree at Columbia University’s School of Public Health. It’d be great to hear from someone close to our own age, too.

6. J.J. Abrams: O.K., fine, I only want him if he promises to tell us whether the island on Lost is heaven or hell or just a young autistic boy’s snow globe. If he speaks, I promise I won’t even tweet the answers.

This list isn’t complete — I’d probably die if Sandra Day O’Connor, Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama appeared on the podium. Whoever it is, I will gladly soak up any words of wisdom she (or he, but a woman would be awesome, Penn) may offer. But in the end, what makes a great speaker is personality, and I’m hoping for one of these picks.

Alyssa Schwenk is a College senior from Ottumwa, Iowa. She is the former Editorial Page Editor of the DP and editor of The Report Card. Her e-mail address is That’s What Schwenk Said appears on Mondays.

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