One November morning in 1999, a naked University of Wisconsin sophomore covered with nothing but a painted “33” and “Ron Dayne” rushed down Camp Randall to celebrate Badger football player Ron Dayne setting a new rushing record on the field.
In the era of no iPhones to take pictures or record and TV channels refusing to broadcast the image of a naked man, many were left wondering about the identity of the “the Streaker” who ran across Camp Randall in his birthday suit.
Standing next to the Streaker, who was dressed up in a trench coat, UW alumnus Manu Raju knew exactly who the man was. For Raju, now chief congressional correspondent for CNN, that was his first big scoop as he broke the story for The Badger Herald as a sports writer.
Wednesday, Raju got another big scoop when UW announced he would be the spring 2021 commencement speaker.
Last week, Raju received an email from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank, inviting him to speak. While surprised, he felt humbled and honored by the invite. He quickly forwarded the email to his wife who was “really thrilled.”
“I was totally floored when I got the invitation,” Raju said. “I love Wisconsin. It’s such a formative time of my life. I’m an ambassador for the university, and everybody who knows me up here knows I’m an avid Badger fan, and I love Madison and university as parts of my identity.”
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Raju’s family moved to the U.S. with relatively modest means, and there comes a certain work ethic with being a child of immigrants, Raju said.
Raju, who is on his feet all day, spends his time writing, reporting and thinking how to be the first one to gather new information that readers and viewers don’t already know. What makes his job really worth it, he said, is when people notice his reporting and when he breaks a story.
“All of this means a lot, just to come back to the university and be able to share with folks my experience and also my love for the university and Madison,” he said.
As someone who tries to work hard and play hard, which Raju said he did quite a lot at UW, he still cherishes his memories spent at the Terrace, State Street and Badger games. Now covering Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., Raju credits his success to the experiences he had at UW.
At The Badger Herald, Raju covered the two Rose Bowl games that the Badgers won under Barry Alvarez’s leadership. He was in the student section as a freshman the day Camp Randall played “Jump Around” for the first time. After that day, the tradition was born.
“The Badger Herald meant a lot to me,” Raju said. “It was definitely where I got my start in my career and set me on the trajectory towards journalism. I didn’t know I wanted to be a journalist until I spent four years in Madison, and I worked at The Herald, so it’s a very special and important place to me.”
Amidst the everyday chaos of breaking news and covering the White House, Raju has not quite yet figured out what exactly his speech will be about. But he hopes recent graduates will leave the ceremony with something more than just their degrees as they step into an awaiting world of possibility.