When Harvard had Oprah Winfrey as its commencement speaker the Boston Globe took a long term look at who gets invited to give commencement speeches at Boston area colleges and universities. The resulting article in Sunday’s Globe “From Churchill to Oprah” (http://www.bostonglobe.com/2013/06/21/from-churchill-oprah-teh-evolution-college-commencement-speakers/jNAOFM9FzJLHclABJO7R9M/story.html) documents a seismic shift, from “authorities” and figures in high culture to those from entertainment and “money”.
So what? Who pays attention to commencement speakers? Can you remember what the commencement speaker said at your graduation from college? Maybe not, but one is more likely to remember who spoke, and hence what at this big moment alma mater said she really admired. It’s powerful symbolism, and the Globe has done a service by giving us one more way to see what those in charge really value.