In a break from the comedians that have graced Tercentenary Theatre on Class Day in recent years, the Class of 2005 will hear from NBC News anchor Tim Russert.
Since 2000, celebrities like Conan C. O’Brien ’85, Bono, Al Franken ’73, Will Ferrell, and Sacha Baron Cohen, who spoke last year, have addressed the senior class and their guests.
“I think it’s a popular misconception that the Class Day speaker is supposed to be a comedian,” First Class Marshal Caleb I. Franklin ’05 said Wednesday. “In years before we’ve had Corretta Scott King, in other years we’ve had Mother Theresa. The class day speaker is actually a very flexible role.”
Reacting to the off-color antics of last year’s Class Day speaker, the administration also encouraged the class marshals to select a speaker who would appeal to parents and family members of graduates as well as the students themselves, said Class Marshal Sheria D. Smith ’05.
“We actually had a meeting with the deans who expressed their displeasure with the current trend of Class Day speakers, particularly with Ali G of last year,” she said. “The sentiment that was laid out for us was that they really wanted us to go away from the trend and that there would be very few comedians that would get approved because of Ali G.”
Cohen, who performs under the name Ali G, included jokes about marijuana and sex that offended some attendees at last year’s Class Day.
Second Class Marshal Dominique D.T. Nong ’05 said that the administration advised the class committee to be conscious of their choice of Class Day speaker this year and did not explicitly prohibit comedians.
“I don’t think it was a bias against comedians by any means,” she said yesterday. “It was just a bias against a certain type of humor.”
“We were under pressure to ensure that the class day speaker would be appropriate for the audience that the speech would be given to,” Franklin said.
Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 lauded the choice of Russert as Class Day speaker.
“Great choice,” he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night. “I look forward to meeting him.” Gross did not comment further.
Franklin added that aside from his more universal appeal, Russert has a unique and relevant perspective on the events that have effected this year’s graduates.
“He has been at the forefront of political discourse,” Nong said yesterday.
“He has interviewed all the major leaders. Meet the Press is a huge and important part of American society. Given his knowledge and experience, he’ll be able to tell us something meaningful and make it funny as well.”
But reactions across campus were mixed at Russert’s pick as Class Day speaker.
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