Columns / Discourse / January 27, 2016

Thoughts from the embers: Durbin a fair choice for Knox

Commencement. Definitely not the the end of our time here at Knox, but the beginning of something new. Different. Bold.

This two hour long ceremony holds a distinct significance for all of us–perhaps we are the first in our family to graduate, or we chose to pursue a different field of study, or we’re finally ready to break out into the world and make a difference. Which is why, perhaps, we make such a big deal out of choosing the commencement speaker: It’s the one person who can draw the attention away from us, the graduates.

It’s been announced that Senator Dick Durbin will be presenting at this year’s Commencement ceremony. As minority Whip of the U.S. Senate, he will undoubtedly play an important role in our lives and offer insightful advice for new graduates. Is he, however, representative of the student body to whom he’ll be speaking?

Knox’s more than 35 majors already give us an idea of the diversity among its students. Besides this, we all participate in a variety of extracurricular activities–such as intramural sports, MECha, and Anime Club–that reflect yet another facet of our complex student body. Who, then, could we call “fitting” enough for us to welcome to our Commencement?

As this ceremony is one to celebrate our achievements while at Knox, it should also embody the values and ideals that we as students have chosen to follow. This is not to say Senator Durbin is uncharacteristic of Knox, but what of the process that went into choosing him?

A more transparent system of choosing a Commencement speaker is necessary to ensure a greater consensus on who comes and their recognition within the community. The current method of receiving feedback from students could be narrowed down and ask more than just “Who do you want to see?” Although we would all like to hear from well-known celebrities or former presidents, we also have to accept the reality of Knox’s own notoriety; we’re a small, family-like institution that is located in the middle of America’s cornfields. Our location isn’t New York City or Washington D.C., our endowment isn’t a black hole of funding and we value local business over national corporations. All of these characteristics make Knox the brilliant place we’ve dedicated our education to, and perhaps our Commencement speaker should be more reflective of that.

Whoever comes, their selection should be heavily influenced by the student body. Asking students first what they value in a Commencement speaker, then running potential candidates through a second round of voting, would not only involve seniors more in this decision, but give students the ability to input their opinion on who might actually be coming. Students at Knox also have valuable connections with individuals we might like to see at the ceremony–why not give them the opportunity to extend an offer of inviting someone to campus? The lack of transparency in the process is disappointing and only serves as a disconnect within the student body.

All things considered, Knox already has a great reputation of commencement speakers–President Barack Obama, Secretary Madeleine Albright and Majora Carter. We are a reputable institution with academic rigor, an excellent student body, and have a thirst to make a difference in the world. Regardless of who comes to speak, Commencement is our opportunity to be thankful for education and proud of ourselves.

Welcome to Knox, Senator Durbin.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  commencement embers Galesburg graduation Knox Knox College speaker student involvement

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