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Student Commencement Speaker to Be Picked through Open Competition
February 20, 2012
Any graduating student may audition to speak on National Mall in May.
George Washington’s 2012 student Commencement speaker will be chosen through an open competition in which any graduating student can participate. Applicants have until March 1 to write a speech and deliver it in a video to be submitted to the judging committee.
Ocieola Newby, an executive associate in the Office of University Events, said the university decided to change the format of the student speaker competition from past years so that any interested graduating student—undergraduate or graduate, enrolled on a campus or via distance learning—could have a chance to become the speaker. In the past, colleges and schools selected and submitted speaker candidates, who then competed for the speaker role.
The Commencement speaker committee, a group of about a dozen faculty members, staff members, administrators and students yet to be selected, will choose up to 10 speaker finalists from the submissions. These finalists will deliver their speeches in person or via Skype on April 20, when the judges will select the winner.
The speech that contestants prepare for their applications should be the one they intend to give on the National Mall, said Executive Director of University Events Kathryn Bugg.
“We want the student speaker to connect with other graduates in the audience,” Ms. Bugg said. “They’ll be talking to a diverse group—there are 20,000 guests on the Mall. We always look for students who can serve as the model of the GW experience. Strong delivery and strong content are both important, and we’ll look for a speaker whose personality can translate over both TV and webcast to the audience.”
GW graduate Collin Stevenson, B.A. ’09, M.A. ’11, who served as student Commencement speaker in 2011, said the experience was something that could only have happened at GW.
“GW granted me a number of incredibly unique experiences. Having the opportunity to share some of those experiences, from a location filled with so much history, was something I will never forget,” he said.
In addition to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address classmates, family members and distinguished guests on the National Mall, the winning speaker will receive six reserved-seating Commencement tickets, a photo with the Commencement speaker, an invitation to special receptions for him- or herself and two guests, and a commemorative photo CD from Commencement.
“It’s really exciting for our student speaker to share the stage with some of the most prominent speakers of our age,” Ms. Bugg said, mentioning previous Commencement speakers First Lady Michelle Obama and then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “And 2012 marks the 20th year of a unified GW Commencement ceremony on National Park land—we’re the only university in the world we know of that does that.”
Complete application details for the student speaker competition are available online. Students should also visit www.commencement.gwu.edu for detailed Commencement weekend information. The 2012 university-wide Commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 20, at 9:30 a.m. on the National Mall.