Making it to commencement is a feat that the average student spends four years trying to achieve. After years of tests, projects and just trying to make life work, the prospect of graduation is exciting. However, there is still one last hurdle before students make it to the real world: sitting through the longest two hours of their lives.
Anyone who has been to a Baylor graduation can vouch for this. The ceremony is boring and takes forever. To be fair, most commencements are. However, colleges around the nation have made efforts to send their seniors off with something memorable, such as a notable guest speaker. Universities have booked actors and actresses, business people, journalists, scientists and others. While it is not surprising when Ivy League schools and larger institutions announce a well-known speaker, it should be noted that even schools in the Big 12 have joined this trend.
At Oklahoma State University, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Westphal and U.S. Sen. James Lankford spoke during the 2015 commencement ceremonies. Texas Tech has a star-studded list, including George Bush, George W. Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz. This year, Tech announced its speaker, Mark Lanier, who was named 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year by The National Trial Lawyers and The Trial Lawyer magazine.
Other big-name schools had speakers such as Michelle Obama, Jon Bon Jovi and Robert Di Niro, to name a few. Speakers like these don’t come cheap. Last year, University of Houston paid Matthew McConaughey $135,000 plus travel expenses to speak at graduation. In 2006, Katie Couric earned $110,000 for her commencement address at the University of Oklahoma. While Baylor never seems to be hurting financially, an extra hundred grand could be hard to scrape together. Side note: it is absurd to charge that much for a 15-minute speech. It seems like speakers should find the event to be more of an honor than a paying job.
If cost is truly the issue for Baylor not having guest speakers, the university could look into recruiting alumni. Baylor is home to many notable graduates, some are even living in Waco. Perhaps the most obvious choice is Chip and Joanna Gaines. Joanna submitted a video of her testimony to the Gathering at McLane Stadium last spring. The story was moving and she is an eloquent speaker. Their rise in fame has practically made them the face of Waco, and perfect candidates for commencement.
If Baylor wanted to lighten things up, perhaps Jeff Dunham and his ‘“guests” could come speak. Considering the sheer volume of business, nursing and pre-med students, Baylor graduate Joel Allison, former president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, is a solid option as well.
Tradition is a wonderful thing and something that Baylor, as the oldest continually operating university in Texas, cherishes. Commencement is no exception. The ceremony is sufficient, but not memorable. As students, we would like our last moments at Baylor to be meaningful and indelible. Perhaps a change of pace could help accomplish this.