Staff nominates Commencement speakers

Each year, a new class of seniors processes across the Quad during Commencement, celebrating their achievements and reflecting on their successes over the past four years. An essential part of this yearly tradition is the Commencement address. For the first time, the university is accepting student nominations for the speaker, as part of the recently formed Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee. Although we realize Wake Forest faces particular challenges in recruiting more well-known figures since it does not compensate its Commencement speakers, we submit the following names for consideration for this year’s address.


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No matter your politics, public figures from both sides of the aisle, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Michelle Obama and Chris Christie, could offer valuable lessons for students on civic engagement, political participation and activism.



Commencement speakers should be both witty and informative. For that reason, we recommend Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Ellen Degeneres, for their sharp and cogent takes on this (often absurd) American life. Another valuable choice would be Oprah Winfrey, whose connection to the university through her relationship with Maya Angelou makes her both a more realistic and welcome choice. Each of these figures, beloved by students, would both connect with and entertain their audience.


Science and Technology

Our generation is undoubtedly the most digitally connected. Thus, why not invite any range of figures in this field, ranging from the cherished Bill Nye the Science Guy of our youth to more contemporary technology leaders like Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin or Larry Page?



We might be partial, but journalists are uniquely placed to offer some of the best insights on the state of America in an eloquent and sophisticated manner. Thus, we nominate writers and editors like David Carr, Jill Abramson, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman.

Frequently watched broadcast journalists like Christiane Amanpour and Brian Williams would also be able to speak knowledgeably about the world students face after leaving Wake Forest.



The recent Words Awake! event held last spring at the university affirmed the didactic power of literature. It has been too long since a literary figure graced the stage at Commencement, and thus, we nominate the writers commonly read by our generation, including J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Admittedly, Commencement speeches do not define one’s undergraduate experience. But if we were to invite a speaker who defies clichés and actually inspires students? That would be worth remembering.

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