Quindlen well-suited for commencement address
When Chancellor Mark Wrighton announced at the senior toast Tuesday that author and journalist Anna Quindlen would serve as this year’s commencement speaker, applause was scattered. But despite the lackluster response from the senior class—which can be attributed to her lack of name recognition—the Student Life editorial board believes Quindlen is a good choice and that students should keep an open mind despite her lack of name recognition.
Even though students might not be as familiar with Quindlen as they’ve been with previous commencement speakers like Rep. John Lewis and filmmaker Ken Burns, she has all-star credentials. Quindlen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who held several posts at The New York Times and an author who had her 1994 novel “One True Thing” turned into a film. Seniors disappointed by Quindlen’s lack of name recognition might seek to learn more about her through reading one or more of her eight New York Times best-sellers, which include both works of fiction and nonfiction.
Quindlen also provides some much-needed gender diversity to the list of those who have spoken at Commencement, as a woman had not been chosen for the honor since 2009. Our editorial board commends Washington University for selecting a female speaker for this year’s ceremony, and Quindlen, given her tremendous success as an author and as a journalist, warrants recognition in her own right, apart from her gender.
More than that, she has delivered commencement addresses at numerous other universities, including Villanova University, Barnard College and Mount Holyoke College. Quindlen’s previous speaking experience offers a positive outlook on the quality of this year’s address. Subjects that she’s touched on in past speeches—such as having the courage to stake out new territory and remembering to enjoy life’s journey—are relevant to driven and hard-working Wash. U. students; and Quindlen, as a best-selling author, has the eloquence needed to deliver an inspiring speech.
Quindlen also has a history of speaking up about present societal issues, including reproductive rights and health care, issues that remain prevalent following the election of President Donald Trump. While Quindlen’s speeches on past campuses have mostly been about advice to the graduating classes, we feel her unique perspective on some of these issues could add another dimension to her speech. Just as Lewis discussed racism while also advising students to make the best use of their education in his address last May, Quindlen could tie her message of maintaining one’s sense of self to present day issues regarding health care in this country.
While we admit that Quindlen might not initially excite the student body as much the last few years’ picks, we feel that her speaking abilities, diversity of topics and long list of powerful credentials make her a good choice to speak at the ceremony, if not a thrilling one.