K-School Speaker: Not Now or Ever

The Kennedy School of Government class marshalls decided two weeks ago they would have no commencement speaker this year after several prominent political figures refused their invitation to speak at commencement ceremonies. A directive from President Bok, issued around the same time, will prevent them from inviting anyone in the future.

Norman R. Smith, assistant dean of the K-School, confirmed yesterday that Bok sent a letter to Graham T. Allison, Jr. '62, dean of the School, in late May saying it was inappropriate for graduate schools to have their own commencement speaker. At that point, when everyone whom the K-School had contacted indicated they would be unable to speak. "We decided not to invite anyone else," Smith said.

Smith refused to say whom the K-School had contacted, or how many people they invited. Five of the seven class marshalls also refused to comment.

But aides to Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) and Elizabeth H. Dole, assistant to the president for public liason, all confirmed that a K-School official had inquired about the availability of each on June 4th.

Lori A. Forman, a class marshall, confirmed that Hart, Dole and Baker were the first choices of the students.


Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Henry Cisneros, a K-School alumnus who was recently elected mayor of San Antonio, Texas, were also sought out, aides to the two said.

Forman added that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.) was called about delivering the address.

The class marshalls originally decided in April that they would ask Reagan to deliver their commencement address. Forman, who works at Decision Making Inc., a polling and research firm run by Reagan pollster Richard L. Wirthlin, asked her boss about the possibility of the President speaking.

At that point, Wirthlin indicated that there might be a possibility, and Forman notified Smith. Smith consulted with University officials, who decided it would be considered a snub if only a graduate school, and not the University, invited the President.

University officials then decided to follow-up on the possibility of Reagan coming to speak, and issued a formal invitation for the University Commencement. At that point, the K-School decided to refrain from inviting anyone, because Bok indicated that if Reagan came to speak at the Yard, the K-School might have been granted "special privileges," Forman said.

When Reagan's rejection came through, at the beginning of May, the K-School was left with little more than a month to find a speaker.

An April 14 Globe article about the K-School's "informal" inquiries about the President, focused attention on the K-School's practice of inviting its own commencement speakers. Harvard graduate schools technically are not allowed to invite their own speakers.

In a letter to Allison Bok indicated that the situation had gotten out of hand, and told the K-School it could no longer have commencement speakers.

A K-School source said that the letter also criticized Smith for not keeping the University informed when they were checking into the possibility of having Reagan speak.

Smith denied that allegation, saying that since no formal inquiry was made the University could not have expected him to keep them posted, and that Bok made no such complaint in the letter.

The Kennedy School has had two commencement speakers. Two years ago. Carol Bellamy, president of the New York City Council, delivered the address, and last year, newsman Walter Cronkite spoke