Alumni Graduation Speakers Add a Unique Perspective
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 10th, 2011
Erika Mobley graduated from Milton in 1986; Peter Scoblic graduated 1992; and now, Reif Larsen, Milton Academy Class of 1998. These last three graduation speakers illustrate a recent trend. For several years now, the school’s graduation speakers have been exclusively Milton alumni. Although there are valid reasons for this tradition, there is also something to be said for allowing non-alumni to speak as well.
For every successful, inspirational, and funny Milton graduate, there are literally thousands of others who never attended the academy, who could still captivate the audience just as well, if not better. For this reason, some in the community wish to hear the opinions of these speakers at an event as momentous as graduation. Famous and successful non-alums, such as Bill Clinton, have been some of the most popular and well-remembered commencement speakers.
However, for all that these people possess in terms of personal experience, they lack a true understanding of Milton students’ experiences and expectations. Although bringing in speakers who did not attend Milton introduces a plethora of different voices, Milton alumni offer students a more direct view of what life after Milton Academy is like.
A Milton alumnus or alumna knows the school well and can better connect to the graduating class. Ms. Everett, Director of the Communications office, described this connection quite clearly when she said of the alumni, “They know what the kids have been through; they know what the culture is like – they have a common bond. So, they start in the same place.”
Although the Alumni Relations office handles much of the graduation planning, picking a speaker is a privilege given to the students. A group of seniors choose between Pulitzer-prize winning authors, political leaders, and artists of all stripes.
Previously, Milton Academy hosted a series of speakers who were not in any way a part of the Milton bubble. However, seniors embarked on a new path when they picked David Lindsay-Abaire, Class of ‘88, as their graduation speaker in 2002.
This choice began a tradition that continues today. Students at the time reported on how refreshing it was to hear from a Milton alumnus. They saw on the podium not a famous but unconnected speaker meant to motivate; rather, they saw someone who had started in the same way that they had, who had then managed to make a name for them self. They saw tangible goals and personal inspiration with a speaker who had a real bond with the Academy.
A speaker who is in no way connected to Milton may still deliver an amazing, encouraging speech. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for someone who understands, immediately, the balance of humor, honesty, and celebration that our seniors crave on Graduation Day.
Last year, Peter Scoblic spoke to the school about his own incidents – and injuries – on Milton’s quad years ago, the very same quad where students sat that day, citing with witty candor the various locations of his unfortunate accidents.
Could a non-Milton speaker entertain the audience? Most likely. But in the end, these speakers would lack the connection that makes a graduation speaker great. Seniors look for someone who has walked in their shoes and Milton alumni are the perfect source.
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