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Editorial | Patrick the right choice for Class of 2009

Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 03:03

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will give the university's Commencement address for the Class of 2009. We at the Daily commend the governor's selection as speaker.

While some Tufts students may not be enamored of his politics, and others may disagree with his policies, there is no doubt that Patrick will be an interesting and relevant lecturer. Following the Commencement address given by Tufts alum and Today Show host Meredith Vieira in 2008, there was some discussion that, while a "celebrity" speaker was all well and good, the university would do better to invite a person who would have something interesting and useful to say to the graduating class; that it would be better to have a person of civic importance than of celebrity.

In Patrick, Tufts has managed to unite the two.

Born to a poor family living in Chicago's South Side, Patrick won a scholarship at age 14 to study at Massachusetts' Milton Academy, going on to attend Harvard College and Harvard Law School. His rise to the post of assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration and to governor of Massachusetts in 2006 is an inspirational story of perseverance in the face of adversity and civic awareness in times of trial.

Patrick's campaign for and election to the state's highest public office was, for many in the senior class, the first exposure to the kind of grassroots political campaign that would be duplicated by a young Illinois senator two years later. While many of us at Tufts associate strong student engagement in politics with Barack Obama's presidential campaign, it was Deval Patrick's run for the governorship that first awakened the political spirit in many of our graduating seniors.

At a university that speaks so strongly in favor of active citizenship and civic engagement, Patrick's words will resonate with Tufts students who seek to become leaders in their communities and their world. In addition, the fact that he is the chief executive of a state during a time of extraordinary economic difficulty means that his speech should hold special interest for a group of students facing the worst job market in recent memory. Above all, graduates will be looking for inspiration for the daunting times ahead — and Patrick is well suited to provide it.

Picking a Commencement speaker is not easy. It is the nature of a liberal arts university, particularly one at which the students are so outspoken about their thoughts and opinions, that there will inevitably be disappointment in some circles over anyone chosen to address the graduating class. In selecting Patrick, however, Tufts has ensured that the Class of 2009 will hear something relevant, interesting and inspirational.

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