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The Baltimore-Area Commencement Speech Rundown

0 Written by: | Monday, May 14, 2012 9:10am

Dr. Shirley Jackson, who will five the commencement speech at Morgan State.

I’m sure there are people out there who remember their commencement speakers forever. I’m not one of them. I vaguely remember a woman speaking in broad terms about leadership, or friendship, or maybe even both. Some of this year’s graduates are going to find that half-hour speech the most riveting part of graduation — probably those lucky kids at Goucher, who’ll get to listen to a born storyteller — while many will spend that time daydreaming about their post-graduation plans. Here’s a run-down of the rest of 2012’s commencement speakers and their relative snooze-scores:

Johns Hopkins:  Sam Palmisano, chairman of IBM. Pros:  Baltimore native, once a backup saxophonist for The Temptations (!?). Cons:  A computer businessman. Looks straight-laced. Prediction:  An emphasis on hard work and extensive preparation; football metaphors.

Loyola University Maryland:  Reverend Greg Boyle, founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, the nation’s largest gang intervention program. Pros:  Boyle has done plenty of genuine good deeds in some of LA’s roughest neighborhoods; he also has a genuine twinkle in his eye. Cons:  Too good? Prediction:  Speech as a spiritual call to action.

UMBC:  Dr. Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation. Pros:  He’s not just a researcher; he also taught science at Brown and MIT, so he knows how to talk to undergraduates. Cons:  Engineer AND bureaucrat. Prediction:  “Never stop asking questions.”

Notre Dame of Maryland: Sean McManus, CBS Sports Chairman. Pros:  Personal connection to Baltimore (his parents were from here); the man is in the entertainment business, so he knows how storytelling should work. Cons:  In the promotional photo, he’s wearing all beige. Prediction:  Baseball metaphors.

University of Maryland:  John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Pros:  “the federal government’s chief people person”; a lion at the National Zoo is named after him. Cons:  “More than 20 years of experience in the federal government.” Prediction:  The phrase, “think outside the box” will be used.

Morgan State: Dr. Shirley Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Pros:  Described by Time Magazine as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science”; holder of 49 (!!) honorary doctoral degrees. Cons:  This lady gives a lot of speeches; she might be tired of it by now.  Prediction:  An uplifting personal story as an inspirational tool.

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