The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Rawlings to speak at commencement

By Katelyn Gough and W. Tucker Keene

Mayors Rawlings
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards luncheon in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of SMU)

SMU announced Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings as the featured speaker during the all-university commencement ceremony May 17.

Rawlings was elected mayor in June 2011 and has focused his work in areas such as combating domestic violence, improving education equality throughout the city and improving the economic impact and employment opportunities of Dallas.

Rawlings and SMU partner on several initiatives, including the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club for Dallas-area young students and the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program for Dallas high school students.

“We prepare our graduates to become world changers, and I can’t think of a better example for them than Mayor Rawlings,” said President R. Gerald Turner to SMU News and Communications.

Chair of the SMU Board of Trustees Caren H. Prothro echoed these sentiments, as reported by SMU News and Communications.

“[Rawlings] understands the impact of higher education on the vitality of a city, has participated in several SMU programs and is a great friend to the university,”
Prothro said.

Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios expressed his excitement to welcome Rawlings to Moody Coliseum at graduation.

“I heard him speak earlier this year and I saw his passion for bettering the Dallas community, which has been our home for the past four years,” Trespalacios said. “It is a great way to keep us connected to Dallas when we graduate.”

The reaction from many other students has been mixed. After a seemingly delayed announcement of the commencement speaker, the announcement of a local speaker created backlash from a number of students thinking back to past speakers, such as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

“I think Mayor Rawlings is an intelligent man and probably has good insight for the graduates, but I too am disappointed” said senior and outgoing Student Body Secretary Katherine Victoria Ladner.

Ladner said a local speaker could be considered a downgrade, but at the same time, backlash from students — including a Twitter movement to have Mark Cuban agree to speak at commencement — “is a poor reflection on the university.”

Senior Julia Olson said that while she was surprised by the selection, hosting the leader of the university’s city is ode to a strong and beneficial partnership.

“I found SMU’s selection to be very unexpected considering the incredible notoriety of past commencement speakers,” Olson said. “However, as the university celebrates the centennial, maybe it is appropriate to highlight the leadership of the amazing city that has supported our institution’s growth and success.”

As a life-long Dallas resident, junior and most recent Student Body Vice President Jaywin Malhi said he is looking forward to hearing Rawlings address the university.

“Mayor Rawlings has demonstrated a commitment to bettering this city and, having heard him speak before, his vision for the future of Dallas is incredibly motivating,” Malhi said. “As the leading university in Dallas, SMU has surely benefited from Mayor Rawlings’ continuous support for this university.”

Malhi said he understands some of the disappointment of members of the graduating class, but called his peers to reconsider the capability and tangible work of Rawlings.

“I would urge us all to focus on the caliber of thoughts a speaker can impart, [and] not merely his [or] her name recognition,” Malhi said. “I look forward to hearing [Rawlings’] thoughts on how we can all play a role in being city-changers, state-changers and…world-changers upon graduation and into the future.”

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