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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who the Heck is Dana Gioia?

The Stanford Daily broke the news that a dark horse was chosen as the class of 2007's Commencement speaker: Dana Gioia.

Now honestly, how many people know who this guy is? I admit, when I first read the article, I was pretty upset - since 2000, Stanford has had an impressive list of commencement speakers:

2000: Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General
2001: Carly Fiorina, HP CEO
2002: Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
2003: Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru
2004: Sandra Day O'Connor, US Supreme Court Justice
2005: Steve Jobs, Apple CEO
2006: Tom Brokaw, NBC News Anchor

But now it's

2007: Dana Gioia, Poet??????????!?!?!

It's easy to be upset about this. After all, we're Stanford, we should get the most famous person in the planet, right? I sensed a little bit of arrogance during my conversation at dinner, myself included, ragging on Gioia because he wasn't "famous." I did decide to look at his CV and after learning a little about him, I'd be interested to hear what he has to say.

Things to like:
1) Impressive career
- BA Stanford, 1973, MA Harvard, 1975, MBA Stanford, 1977
- VP of General Mills 1977-1992
- Fulltime poet
- Current chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts

2) Diverse background
- Experience as a businessman, bureaucrat, poet, writer, composer
- Has translated works from Latin, Italian, German, and Romanian
- Commentator for BBC Radio

And you know, he willl probably know that nobody knows who he is, and will make a joke about this, which will be funny.

On the other hand, there's a lot of justifiable criticism for Gioia as commencement speaker. Given the Iraq War and the landscape of American politics, someone more pertinent to that might have been more relevant.

But, I'm going to come down and defend Gioia as commencement speaker. First, Gioia has commendable accomplishments, and given his diverse and successful career, you don't need to be a billionaire to deliver a good speech. And given that he's a poet, and a full-time writer, I'm sure he'll have something insightful to say. Second, I think there's something to be said about the importance of the arts in America. Gioia, as leader of the NEA, seems to be at the helm of promoting and protecting the arts in America, and with so much attention on the Iraq War and politics, there's hardly any appreciation for the arts, much less at a very techie place like Stanford.

On the other hand, it's easy for us to all get upset since as seniors, we had a chance to vote for our speaker. There was little transparency in this whole process, seeing as how the Stanford Daily was the one to inform us of Gioia. I'd definitely fault our Senior Class Presidents and the whole selection process for not telling us who else was considered and most importantly, who the seniors voted for. After all, it's our commencement and it's pointless to let us decide who to have if that decision doesn't even matter in the longrun. I honestly doubt that even a small minority picked Gioia as our speaker. Bill Clinton must have been in the top 3. But, it seems like we're stuck with Gioia, whether we like it or not. If students want to fight the decision, so be it, but I'd only support them to the extent of increased transparency in the entire process.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

grrrrrrr stop being so reasonable. this guy is the one no one wants to pick on their kickball team.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who the Heck is Dana Gioia?

The Stanford Daily broke the news that a dark horse was chosen as the class of 2007's Commencement speaker: Dana Gioia.

Now honestly, how many people know who this guy is? I admit, when I first read the article, I was pretty upset - since 2000, Stanford has had an impressive list of commencement speakers:

2000: Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General
2001: Carly Fiorina, HP CEO
2002: Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
2003: Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru
2004: Sandra Day O'Connor, US Supreme Court Justice
2005: Steve Jobs, Apple CEO
2006: Tom Brokaw, NBC News Anchor

But now it's

2007: Dana Gioia, Poet??????????!?!?!

It's easy to be upset about this. After all, we're Stanford, we should get the most famous person in the planet, right? I sensed a little bit of arrogance during my conversation at dinner, myself included, ragging on Gioia because he wasn't "famous." I did decide to look at his CV and after learning a little about him, I'd be interested to hear what he has to say.

Things to like:
1) Impressive career
- BA Stanford, 1973, MA Harvard, 1975, MBA Stanford, 1977
- VP of General Mills 1977-1992
- Fulltime poet
- Current chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts

2) Diverse background
- Experience as a businessman, bureaucrat, poet, writer, composer
- Has translated works from Latin, Italian, German, and Romanian
- Commentator for BBC Radio

And you know, he willl probably know that nobody knows who he is, and will make a joke about this, which will be funny.

On the other hand, there's a lot of justifiable criticism for Gioia as commencement speaker. Given the Iraq War and the landscape of American politics, someone more pertinent to that might have been more relevant.

But, I'm going to come down and defend Gioia as commencement speaker. First, Gioia has commendable accomplishments, and given his diverse and successful career, you don't need to be a billionaire to deliver a good speech. And given that he's a poet, and a full-time writer, I'm sure he'll have something insightful to say. Second, I think there's something to be said about the importance of the arts in America. Gioia, as leader of the NEA, seems to be at the helm of promoting and protecting the arts in America, and with so much attention on the Iraq War and politics, there's hardly any appreciation for the arts, much less at a very techie place like Stanford.

On the other hand, it's easy for us to all get upset since as seniors, we had a chance to vote for our speaker. There was little transparency in this whole process, seeing as how the Stanford Daily was the one to inform us of Gioia. I'd definitely fault our Senior Class Presidents and the whole selection process for not telling us who else was considered and most importantly, who the seniors voted for. After all, it's our commencement and it's pointless to let us decide who to have if that decision doesn't even matter in the longrun. I honestly doubt that even a small minority picked Gioia as our speaker. Bill Clinton must have been in the top 3. But, it seems like we're stuck with Gioia, whether we like it or not. If students want to fight the decision, so be it, but I'd only support them to the extent of increased transparency in the entire process.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

grrrrrrr stop being so reasonable. this guy is the one no one wants to pick on their kickball team.