Support us with Kachingle!
May 10, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Graduation season is coming up, and soon-to-be grads are hoping to get an exciting speaker at their commencement ceremonies. Vox takes a look at commencement speakers at Missouri colleges and universities over the years.
Maude Adams spoke to the graduating class at Stephens College. As a famous and renowned actress, she played up the importance of theater and drama education because, “the great plays of the present may be seen in any of our large cities, but for the great plays of the past, the young people must depend upon schools and colleges.”
“We are facing the greatest age in history,” said President Harry S. Truman in his speech to MU graduates. “Some of you will see a world of untold and unimagined wonders.” These graduates would be around 84 years old now, so we can only imagine the wonders they’ve seen.
William Fulbright gave the commencement speech to graduating students at Columbia
College. Fulbright was dedicated to education. As a senator from Arkansas in 1944, he sponsored the Fulbright Scholars Act which provides scholarships to Americans to study abroad. He is well-known for his televised educational hearings on Vietnam and American foreign policy.
A long-time fighter for women’s rights, Martha Wright Griffiths was the first woman to give a commencement speech at MU. This feminist supported pushing the Equal Rights Amendment though Congress and worked to include protection of women into the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Known for her coverage of presidents, Helen Thomas was also the first female United Press International White House bureau chief. Thomas spoke to MU’s class of 1994 when she was 73 years old. “Thank you, Mr. President,” were her famous words. No, thank you, Helen Thomas.
Dick Cheney spoke to the graduating class of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at MU. He told the eager graduates to look for and take on the unexpected opportunities in life. Unexpected opportunities led him to become Vice President. Who knows? Maybe one of those grads will go on to lead the country in office.
Lyah Beth LeFlore gave the keynote address at Stephens College graduation. LeFlore is a Stephens 1991 alumna and the author of Cosmopolitan Girls, an African-American spin on the TV show Sex and the City. Sassy and strong, LeFlore was raised in the Midwest and became a television producer and best-selling author.
Wally Funk, a pilot, gave the commencement speech to students at Stephens College in 2006. Funk graduated from Stephens in 1958 as first in her class of 24 flyers. As a child, she liked to build model airplanes. Now, 72, she has flown more than 18,000 hours and has been flying professionally since 1957.
Rose T. Dunn gave the commencement speech to Stephens’ students. Dunn was the president of the American Health Information Management Association and founder of First Class Solutions, a health care-consulting firm in St. Louis. “Shoot for the moon,” she said in her speech. “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Gail Collins was the first female editor of The New York Times editorial page. Besides her career with The New York Times, Collins is the bestselling author of America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines along with three other novels. She gave the commencement speech at Stephens College.
Susan Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur, CEO, journalist, attorney and author. She was raised in rural Missouri and now offers business advice as a guest commentator on MSNBC and Fox Business. Solovic spoke to the class of 2011 at Columbia College.
Former President Bill Clinton gave the commencement speech to graduating students at the University of Central Missouri last year. Clinton was the first president to visit the university since Truman. He spoke about the issues of energy efficiency and inequality. “We live in an interdependent world where we cannot escape from each other,” he said. “If you don’t think we’re all in this together, we’re toast.”