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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Seniors have varied opinions regarding speaker Lipponen

Most graduating students seem content with the College's choice of Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen '64 as the keynote speaker at this year's Commencement ceremony, and almost all students said they were surprised by the choice.

"I was surprised, but from what I understand he has the potential to be a very good speaker," Jessica Reiser '97 said. "We'll have to wait and see."

"I think we should respect [Lipponen's] accomplishments and are honored to have him," William Hinsdale '97 wrote in an e-mail message. "But we should have gotten Howard Stern."

Many members of the class had expected a female speaker in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the decision to coeducate the College. Lipponen is the sixth male keynote speaker in a row. The last female commencement speaker was Elizabeth Dole in 1991.

Ben Heller '97 said he was "happy with the choice," though he had "thought it was going to be a woman."

Ellen Sullivan '97 said she had been "looking forward to Hillary [Clinton] or Margaret [Thatcher]," two names that were tossed around while students waited for the College to announce the speaker. Sullivan said she had "no huge feeling either way" about Lipponen.

"I don't know much about the politics of Finland," she said.

The relatively low profile of Lipponen when compared to Hillary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher has caused concern among some students.

"I am extremely excited. We finally got what we deserved. A mediocre college merits a mediocre speaker," John Honovich '97 wrote in an e-mail message.

"The insulting choice of a commencement speaker merely confirms Dartmouth's status as the most intellectually deficient Ivy," Dave Evans '97 wrote.

"Playwright Edward Albee and distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson, both receiving honorary degrees, would have been much better choices," Evans said. "This outcome would be laughable were it not so sad."

Some students were not upset by the College's choice, but by the way it was announced.

"It is my opinion that the Senior class is honored that the Prime Minister of Finland will be speaking to us," Lea Kelly '97 wrote in an e-mail message. "All the seniors to whom I have spoken, however, were very offended by both [The Dartmouth's] editorial about it, and by the reasons for which President Freedman kept it a secret."

"President Freedman's actions have left a particularly bad taste in the mouths of seniors," he wrote.

Freedman said he kept the College's decision about the speaker secret to avoid a protest for someone more famous.