Goodman: Four picks for Northwestern’s 2015 commencement speaker


Meredith Goodman, Columnist

As the days until 2015 ticked down over Winter Break, I began to think about what the new year would mean to me. I had images in my head of making some last special Northwestern memories and graduating in a purple cap and gown. Inevitably, this led to excited thinking about what notable figure or celebrity would speak and give me advice while I donned said cap and gown.

With commencement in mind, I created a list of four speakers I believe NU students would love to see speak at our ceremony. Most of my suggestions are NU alumni. Although many good commencement speeches are given each year by speakers who are not affiliated with the schools they speak at, there is something special about alumni returning to their school. Plus, NU has so many talented and hilarious alumni who would make great commencement speakers.

And now, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my suggestions for commencement speakers. NU administrators, please take note:

1. Oprah Winfrey

I know she’s not an alumna, but Oprah is Chicago, and anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with Oprah. I was devastated when I found out her show would end in early 2011, ruining my plans for buying tickets to the live show when I became an NU student.

Oprah knows how to give graduating students advice — she gave advice on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for years. She has a history of giving great commencement speeches at Harvard University, Howard University and Spelman College. And you know that your mom and grandmother would be so happy to hear Oprah will be speaking. Oprah is an icon, an inspiration, and I hope NU would consider making her a commencement speaker and making my dream come true.

2. Seth Meyers

Wildcats are taking over late night television with Seth Meyers (Communication ’96) already hosting “Late Night” and Stephen Colbert (Communication ’86) taking over David Letterman’s “The Late Show” in late August or early September. Colbert gave a hilarious commencement address the year before I came to NU, and if history is any indication, we know Seth Meyers has similar strong comedic chops. Meyers is also loyal to NU, having served as Homecoming grand marshal my freshman year. He could bring some much needed attention and celebrity power to NU’s commencement, which is often neglected because it happens so late in the year.

3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Technically, Julia Louis-Dreyfus did not actually graduate from NU (she left to go to “Saturday Night Live” her senior year), but she did receive an honorary degree later, so I suppose we can call her an alumna. Much like Seth Meyers, she would bring humor to commencement and please family of all ages with comedic chops perfected on “SNL,” “Veep” and “Seinfeld.” She was also featured in NU’s alumni magazine recently and was quoted saying, “I have great pride about having gone to Northwestern,” a perfect statement for a future commencement speaker to make. She spoke at commencement in 2007, but I am not against bucking the trend and having a great commencement speaker come back again.

4. William Daniels (aka Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World”)

Who better to receive life advice from than the man who played the kind and wise Mr. Feeny on “Boy Meets World?” William Daniels (Communication ’50) has an impressive list of roles, both in and outside of film, including “The Graduate,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Knight Rider” and “Boy Meets World.” He could also speak to NU students about leadership from his experiences as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1999-2001. NU even created an award in his honor: the Willies, for excellence in theater. His appeal spans multiple generations of students, parents and grandparents. I think the ultimate conclusion of my column is that if anyone were perfect for the role of commencement speaker, it would be William Daniels.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].