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The Blue & Gray Press | February 24, 2018

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Staff Editorial: Chosen commencement speakers show unoriginality from university

judge-reinhold-eddie-murphy-one-night-only-01Steve-Pemberton-2_MLK-Keynote-200x300It seems that the University of Mary Washington’s efforts to go green don’t stop at recycling and modifying its architecture, but go so far as to reuse guest speakers for major campus events.

In March, the University announced that, for undergraduate commencement, the student body would have author and former Walgreen’s divisional vice president Steve Pemberton as the presiding speaker. Observant seniors will remember the man as the motivational speaker who spoke to the campus during Black History month this year. There is no question that Pemberton can deliver a stimulating speech to the graduating class of 2013, but the University’s motive for reusing the same speaker is curious.

In 2011, the school chose Congressman John Lewis of Georgia a year in advance to continue with that year’s theme of celebrating the Freedom Rides. The repeated choice of Steve Pemberton comes across as last minute and out of the blue.

Many colleges and universities invite notable alumni to return to their alma mater to speak at graduation ceremonies. Even though UMW’s list of famous alumni is small, this should not limit our reach toward more notable speakers.

In brief conversations, associate vice president and dean of student life Cedric Rucker has mentioned that the University has attempted to contact alumnus Judge Reinhold of “Fast Times of Ridgemont High” fame, but have received no response. Yet, the options do not stop there, considering the star power of Fredericksburg native Danny McBride. While his comedy might be a bit too abrasive for the older Fredericksburg community, he would undoubtedly appeal to the student body.

It seems as though the University has been trying to appease the community surrounding its campus and the students’ parents with their speaker choice instead of thinking about the students themselves.