The United States Secretary of Education and the founder of a non-profit organization will speak at the spring commencement ceremonies, University of Wisconsin officials announced Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Youth Speaks founder James Kass were chosen among other potential speakers, Secretary of the Faculty David Musolf said.
According to a UW press release, Duncan will speak at a Saturday ceremony and Kass will speak at the remaining ceremonies Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s always nice to have people that there’s name recognition, and certainly there’s broad recognition for Arne Duncan,” Musolf said.
He added he is also excited for Kass, saying he thinks Youth Speaks seems like a very exciting and engaging organization.
Associated Students of Madison Secretary Kurt Gosselin, who was a member of the committee selecting the officers, said they were hoping they would be able to get a speaker high up in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Gosselin said Chancellor Biddy Martin helped the officers by drafting a letter to the Obama administration, asking them to send a speaker for commencement. He said he was very excited by their acquiescence.
“I think it’s great that the Secretary of Education’s coming to speak here,” Gosselin said. “That the Obama administration was willing to … dispatch him to come speak is indicative of the fact that we are sort of ‘on the map’ so to speak in terms of our quality of education.”
Kass, a UW graduate, said he is very excited to be coming back for commencement.
“I’m completely honored; I’m a huge fan of the UW,” Kass said. “I absolutely said ‘yes’ right away.”
Gosselin said though he thinks Kass is also a very impressive speaker as one of the first recipients of the UW Forward Under 40 award, he recognized some students graduating on Sunday may still want to hear Duncan speak as well.
He said the senior class officers are working with Martin and Dean of Students Lori Berquam to find a way for those students and their guests to see Duncan speak.
Musolf added UW sometimes has to have two speakers to accommodate the large amount of ceremonies. He said he did not think it is a problem that one is more broadly recognized.
“I think what matters is the content of the speech,” he said.
UW senior Maren Maland, who will graduate on Sunday, said even though Kass is not as broadly recognized as Duncan, she is still excited to hear Kass speak. Maland said she is familiar with Youth Speaks and wants to go into non-profit work after graduation.
Maland added, however, she thinks it is unfortunate she may not get to hear what Duncan has to say to the graduates.
“It’s a little disappointing because I would have liked to have heard what he had to say,” Maland said.”I’m excited for [Kass] as well, but I would have loved to have heard [Duncan].”