As Badgers prepare to walk across the stage at Camp Randall in less than two months, the announcement of Jon Huntsman, Jr., former governor of Utah and a United States ambassador, as the commencement speaker sparked mixed reactions from the student body.
Huntsman, who started his career as a staff assistant to President Ronald Reagan, has served under four U.S. presidents and was a 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Most recently, he served as the U.S. ambassador to China.
“He is a moderate, bipartisan leader who has a record of positive public service,” Andrew Bulovsky, senior class vice president, said.
The University of Wisconsin will not pay Huntsman for his appearance, he said.
It has been two decades since Badgers graduated in a single ceremony, and Huntsman is a speaker who could unite the class, Bulovsky said.
However, other students do not share his opinion.
Laura Killingsworth, a graduating senior studying rehabilitation psychology, said she was not pleased with the announcement because Huntsman is a politician and is not affiliated with UW.
“As a unifying event on campus, a politician representing a certain party shouldn’t be the keynote speaker,” Killingsworth said.
The move to a single-ceremony commencement was announced in the fall, with one goal being to bring a prominent speaker to campus.
Bulovsky said he encourages students to withhold judgment until they hear what Huntsman has to say at the ceremony.
In a UW statement, Huntsman said, “I consider it a great honor to be a small part of sending them off to conquer the opportunities ahead.”