Penn Students Whine Over 2012 Commencement Speaker

Geoffrey Canada has been selected to be this year’s commencement speaker at UPenn. While he may not be a household name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures in education reform for his success in running the Harlem Children’s Zone, a group of charter schools in New York that has vastly improved student performance and college acceptance rates compared to neighboring schools.

Given Penn’s reputation as a top Ivy League school, you’d think that the choice would be a perfect fit; Canada, after all, is a leading innovator in a field that’s currently failing American children at alarming rates.

But despite having been profiled on 60 Minutes, This American Life, The Washington Post and the documentary Waiting for ‘Superman,’ Canada is apparently not enough of a celebrity for some Penn students.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed at how low-profile he is,” one college senior The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Previous commencement speakers at Penn include Denzel Washington, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, so it’s clear that some students are seriously underwhelmed.

“He’s not a high-profile speaker and I really doubt that anyone will become more socially conscious after his speech,” says another student.

While we’ve never agreed with the stereotype that all Penn students are self-entitled, trust fund kids with no bearing on reality, after reading some of their responses to the announcement, it’s hard to not buy into the cliche.

So, below we’ve compiled some more comments from the article with a few sensible replies sprinkled in, just to be fair (and cleanse your palette).

“Jibran is an idiot. He’s the worst president of the past few years – it makes sense that he would bring in such a bad speaker. Way to go Penn…”

“As long as it is a short speech, it will be okay.”

“But daddy, I wanted a red porsche!!!”

“Given past speakers, I don’t think anyone thought it was necessary to join a selection committee. In retrospect, I bet a lot of seniors wish they had because this was a terrible choice.”

“The Class of 2012 was let down by whoever recommended Canada. He is a fine individual, but a depressingly underwhelming and narrow-sighted choice for Speaker.”

“I just want you to know that the spoiled, entitled brats on these comment threads do NOT represent us as a class. I, for one, am really looking forward to Mr. Canada’s speech. He seems like an incredibly interesting man who is trying to change American education for the better. If you don’t want to hear Mr. Canada speak, please do all of us a favor, spare us the whining, and stay home on Commencement day. You won’t be missed.”

Source: The Daily Philadelphian | Photo: (Rosier/News, Linda)

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Chris Lipczynski

A graduate of Temple University, Chris Lipczynski continually spreads himself too thin, endeavoring in documentary films, “computer music,” first-person shooters, and manly hikes through the wilderness. Follow him on Twitter for daily musings and meaningless philosophical reflections: @RealChrisFlip.

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  • Temple ’10

    Chris, there I tremendous irony in your indignant article about a generalized University of Pennsylvania graduating body’s indignance regarding the selection of their commencement speaker. It is difficult to justify a position of moral superiority when you yourself fail to adhere to basic moral consistency and/or self awareness. At least one group isn’t claiming that the opinions being expressed are based on principles of morality and good citizenship. It is their big day–let them express whatever excitement or disappointment they may feel, and accept that it is in their right to hold and express an opinion.

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