Give Mike Peters a chance
When the name Mike Peters left Chancellor Wrighton’s lips during Tuesday’s Senior Class Toast, the crowd in Brookings Quadrangle was immediately abuzz with conversation and puzzled exclamations of “who?” and “huh?” Many seniors left the event disappointed by the announcement of this year’s commencement speaker, and plenty of Facebook statuses and tweets revealed those same sentiments.
Mike Peters, Washington Universiry (and Student Life) alumnus, the Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist and creator of the “Mother Goose and Grimm” series, is no megacelebrity. He’s no Conan O’Brien, President Barack Obama or Bono, as many of the Class of 2012 may have hoped for. But Peters is a unique, interesting and extremely relevant choice for commencement speaker, so try to avoid making rash judgments before you know a little bit more about him.
Peters graduated from Wash. U. in 1965 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and has since gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, en route to creating one of the country’s most well-known comic strips. He currently produces daily cartoons and is nationally syndicated. He’s still recognized in his field and won the 2011 National Headliner Awards.
Although his name isn’t instantly recognizable, he has the potential to give a comical, inspiring, and most importantly, memorable speech to the graduating class of 2012.
Consider the Washington University commencement speakers of the past few years. Last year’s speaker—Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner and author Elie Wiesel—was the big name that many in the community had been hoping for. Others include Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu in 2010, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp in 2009, and MSNBC correspondent Chris Matthews in 2008. None of the choices for commencement speakers in the past few years have been particularly noteworthy or interesting choices, and Peters, representing the artistic and creative side of the University and graduating class, is a refreshing change from the political trend of previous years.
We don’t think that Peters is the perfect choice for commencement speaker, or even an outstanding choice. The University should work toward choosing a speaker that displays a strong combination of uniqueness and celebrity for future commencement addresses. But there is no reason to be disappointed by Peters. Whether or not you knew who he was before Tuesday’s announcement, and even if you still don’t really know who he is, give him a chance. Odds are that by now you’ve at least realized how famous his work is, and you can hope for a speech as creative as the panels of his comics. Peters holds great potential for a memorable address, which is by far what matters most on such an important day.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article incorrectly states that Stephen Chu is the Secretary of Education. He is the Secretary of Energy. Student Life regrets the error.