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Ray LaHood selected as keynote for spring graduation ceremony

The spring commencement keynote speaker has been announced, but the choice was met with mixed student opinions.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will speak at the May 14 graduation ceremony at the Civic Center, and will be awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“Bradley is honored to have such a distinguished alumnus share his thoughts with our graduates,” President Joanne Glasser said in a statement. “We strive to bring speakers of national prominence to inspire our students with their passion, wisdom and life experiences. I look forward to Secretary LaHood encouraging our graduates to make a difference in our nation, as so many Bradley alumni have.”

LaHood, a 1971 Bradley graduate and Peoria native, is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008 as well as the Bipartisan Leadership Award in 2009 and a 2008 inductee into the Bradley Centurion Society for alumni considered leaders in their field.

LaHood served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to becoming the secretary of Transportation. His other roles included chief of staff to House Republican Leader Robert Michel, district administrative assistant to Congressman Thomas Railsback, serving in the Illinois State Legislature and teaching.

Senior international business major Sara Jacobs said Lahood has a special pull for any Peoria native.

“I’m excited he was chosen. He’s a big name so it’s good to have someone recognizable at graduation,” she said. “People know the name, and especially people from Peoria have Ray LaHood stars in their eyes. As long as it’s a big name, I’m happy.”

Senior dietetics major Rachel Grumbine said she thinks students would like to hear from someone more widely appealing to students.

“I would prefer someone with a more recognizable name,” she said. “Neill Flynn from [the TV show] ‘Scrubs’ is a Bradley graduate, and he may be someone to look into to have for a future graduation speaker. Having a successful actor from that show would be appealing to many.”

Senior finance major Jeff Kauther said he’s excited to hear from a successful Bradley graduate.

“They’ve brought in Larry King … before, but Ray LaHood literally knows what it’s like to be where we are,” he said. “He’s working for Obama’s administration, he’s up there as far as Bradley graduates go, and it’s exciting to see someone graduate from here and be so successful. I mean, he was in our shoes once upon a time.”

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