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A welcome choice

[UFedit]A welcome choice

The Commencement Committee's decision to invite former Sen. Paul Tsongas to speak at graduation this year continues the positive trend begun last year with the invitation of A. Bartlett Giamatti. Tsongas is an intelligent and articulate individual who will provide welcome insight from a sector MIT students hear far too little about -- public service.

In the three years prior to Giamatti's selection, commencement speakers were drawn solely from industrial and high-technology enterprises. Although the stature of Lee Iacocca, Kenneth H. Olsen '50 and William R. Hewlett SM '36 is undeniable, inviting three businessmen in succession focused the scope of the Commencement address too narrowly, particularly when these speakers are compared with earlier Commencement speakers such as Katherine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress, or Helmut Schmidt, the former West German prime minister.

Tsongas, currently chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Regents of Higher Education, has devoted much of his life to public service. In sharp contrast to Olsen and Hewlett, whose speeches were largely aimed at the MIT engineering community, Tsongas should be able to appeal to a broader spectrum of students and administrators. At a time when MIT is attempting to diversify its student body, the invitation of speakers from public life is a welcome recognition that students should have interests beyond strict applications of science and engineering.