The Class of 2009 witnessed Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor who battled back to win seven straight Tours de France, speak to the graduating Class of 2006. We then saw Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire Medford native who is internationally renowned in the world of finance and for the reforms that have made him one of New York City’s most popular mayors, speak to the graduating Class of 2007. Last year, we saw the Class of 2008 hear from Meredith Vieira, a Tufts graduate who worked her way up and is now the first person many Americans see every morning after they get out of bed and put on “The Today Show.” After watching such speakers, one could imagine that the Class of 2009 was anxiously awaiting the announcement of a person of the same national caliber as the previous three that we have been witness to. Unfortunately, Tufts selected Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to deliver this year’s Commencement address, a significant but underwhelming choice.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Daily is right when it said that Patrick has an inspirational story, coming from the impoverished South Side of Chicago to rise to governor of the Commonwealth, but what else does he have? A strong majority of Tufts families who will be attending Commencement are not from Massachusetts and will come in unfamiliar and disappointed with the lack of national recognition that Patrick receives. One would think that if the university were looking for a public servant and also for someone with celebrity status, it could have turned toward New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former presidential candidate and a Tufts alumnus. Or they could have chosen former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (his son Ben attends Tufts School of Medicine), a man who I had the privilege of working for as an intern during his presidential campaign, who was one Mike Huckabee Iowa boom away from being the likely Republican nominee for president in 2008, and who is responsible for Massachusetts being the first state in the nation to have a health-care program that is designed to insure all of its citizens. Instead, it went with a man who, other than being elected, has had an abysmal record as governor with little accomplishment.
In a SurveyUSA poll released on Feb. 26, Governor Patrick had an approval rating of 28 percent with a stunning disapproval rating of 68 percent. Still worse, his approval rating among his own Democratic Party was a shocking 42 percent, a sign that there is bipartisan disappointment with the man who promised change and bipartisanship with the clever campaign rhetoric of “Yes, we can” (sound familiar?). I will stand and cheer and respect the governor when he speaks on May 17 at my Commencement, and I believe that his speech will contain soaring and inspiring Obama-like rhetoric. Unfortunately for him and for those who will be hearing from him, he hasn’t done much to back up that rhetoric. Many of my fellow seniors will join me as we cheer with a feeling of disappointment. Tufts could have done better for its Class of 2009.
Class of 2009