The rumors about who the commencement speaker for the class of 2011 abounded, becoming more and more outrageous (everything from James Franco to Sarah Palin) until it finally was announced. Ray LaHood, the US Secretary of Transportation will address the senior class on May 23rd. Now that our sighs of disappointment have subsided, what we really want to know is: who is Ray LaHood?
1. He’s from Illinois – All you Chicagoans (and those who call yourselves Chicagoans even though you live over an hour outside the city), Mr. LaHood hails from Peoria, IL. He attended Bradley University in Peoria and earned his BS in Sociology and Education in 1971. (Yeah, he’s a baby boomer.)
2. He served in the Illinois House of Representatives – Mr. LaHood was a State Congressman from 1982-1994 and then served in the US House of Representatives from 1994 onwards. Obama selected him as the Secretary of Transportation in 2008, and he was the first full-Republican appointee. In the Presidential Succession, 14 people would have to die for him to become president.
3. He’s friends with the former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel – Mr. LaHood has said of Mr. Emanuel, “This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true. The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend.”
4. He presided over the Clinton trial – Ray LaHood was given the task of handling the 1998 Clinton impeachment trial. He was positively reviewed in his handling of the controversial matter.
5. He was a Junior High School Teacher – He may seem like a politician through and through, but Mr. LaHood was a Social Studies teacher until 1977 when he entered the world of politics.
6. His family is Catholic – Ok, so this probably isn’t too much of a shocker, considering BC is a Roman Catholic institution. But it is true, and Mr. LaHood’s grandfather was a Catholic Lebanese immigrant. (I, personally, want to hear that story.)
7. He is a bi-partisan Republican – Mr. LaHood is a proponent of narrowing the division between Democrats and Republicans and working together. He is even quoted as saying, “We trash each other and end up making the institution look bad. That's why Congress's approval ratings are so low.”
8. He has a transportation blog – He probably doesn’t actually write it, but it’s kind of cool. It’s called Fast Lane, and you can access it here: http://fastlane.dot.gov/
So while you may still be sad that James Franco is not in fact coming back to give our Commencement address, at least you know a little more about our actual speaker. Now all we can hope is that his speech is short.