Commencement speeches are a tricky thing. Even the best public speaker faces a tough crowd: thousands of fidgety 20-somethings, sweltering in oppressive heat and polyester gowns, checking off one last requirement before they get their diplomas.
But Robert Gates, who will deliver UT’s commencement address on May 19, shouldn’t have a problem.
He’s charmed far tougher crowds—including eight U.S. presidents, the Boy Scouts, and, yes, even the Aggies.
Gates is a former U.S. Secretary of Defense who has also led the C.I.A. He served as president of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006, and he’s currently a chancellor at the College of William & Mary.
In an era when “bipartisan” is sometimes a dirty word, Gates has consistently drawn praise from all kinds of leaders: from Democrats to Republicans and from military generals to MTV (mtvU named him “Man of the Year” in 2010).
President Obama awarded Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.’s highest civilian honor, in 2011.
But can a former Aggie leader take on an audience of Longhorns? This year’s grads and their families will find out on May 19.
Photo courtesy Robert Meckel