April 20, 2005

Gen. Clark to Speak At Convocation '05

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The convocation committee announced last night that Gen. Wesley Clark will be the convocation speaker during the class of 2005 commencement weekend.

“[Gen. Clark] is a distinguished leader … and is an inspiration for Cornell students in their last Cornell ceremony, a send-off speech that embodies everything that they’ve gotten over their time at Cornell,” said David Katz-Doft ’05, co-chair of the convocation committee.

“We are very honored and excited to have Gen. Clark address us this year before our graduation,” said Stephen Blake ’05, president of the class of 2005 council.

Clark is perhaps most recently known for his campaign for Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, where he “proposed a bold vision for a future comprised not only of prosperous change, but also solidifying the ideals of freedom which make America great,” as the press release stated. During the Balkan wars, Clark was promoted to the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, leading an international force to end ethnic violence in the region.

“We know him as a figure that’s always exuded a lot of confidence and strength and we think he’s somebody that is very well-respected and well-acknowledged throughout the country,” added Sabeen Virani ’05, co-chair of the committee.

“We wanted somebody who was going to step beyond a narrow political message and who is going to be able to speak to the challenges our class is going out to face in the world, both nationally and internationally,” Blake said. “We think Wesley Clark really fits that role, as both a renowned figure but also as a statesman, as a humanitarian and as an all-around good person.”

Clark graduated top of his class from West Point Military Academy and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1966. For his service in Vietnam, Clark received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his battlefield injuries.

Seniors have been anxious to know the name of the convocation speaker for weeks now, but the convocation committee believed the time was well spent in finding the appropriate speaker.

“The committee tries to take into account student opinion, and do the best they can to find a speaker that we think is going to appeal to the class and be representatives of the type of speaker that the class is looking for and that will appeal to a diverse audience,” Blake said.

“You’re dealing with a very wide range of people with all sorts of disciplines,” Virani added. “We really wanted someone who could appeal to the entire cross-section of students.”

“These things take a long time in terms of scheduling and in terms of making it happen. In past years, it’s taken up until this point … to put out the release. It’s not uncommon for us to take a while to secure a speaker that will be fitting for the class and will work out well for the Cornell community,” Blake said.

The committee asked for student opinions on the type of speaker they wanted in an email sent out to rising seniors at the end of the last academic year.

According to the convocation committee, Clark will be awarded the 2005 Convocation Medallion during the ceremony in recognition of “his life-long drive as an educator, leader, and humanitarian.” The convocation will be on Saturday, May 28 at noon in Barton Hall and is open to graduates and their families only. Seating is on a first-come-first-serve basis.