Aspin to Speak at GraduationBy Sabrina Kwon
Associate News Editor
U.S. Representative and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Les Aspin PhD `66 has been chosen as the keynote speaker for commencement on June 1.
President Charles M. Vest, who selected the speaker from a three-page list presented to him by the Commencement Committee, said that Aspin has "a unique perspective on important issues of our time, particularly those involved in our shifting national priorities as defense needs adjust to changing conditions and civilian issues come to the fore."
Provost Mark S. Wrighton and Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith were unavailable for comment.
Director of Special Events Mary L. Morrisey, who led the Commencement Committee, was pleased with Vest's selection. "I always feel surprised, and pleasantly so, in who is picked as the final choice," she said. She declined to name the other potential speakers on the list given to Vest, but did comment that the president "generally does stick to the list presented" in this decision.
Aspin graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in history. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, receiving his master's degree for a combined major in economics, politics, and philosophy. He received his PhD in economics from MIT in 1966. Aspin has been described as "one of the truly important legislators on Capitol Hill" by the Almanac of American Politics.
Student opinion mixed
"I think he's an excellent choice," said Aileen W. Lee '92, class president and an ex officio member of the Commencement Committee. "I've heard from several different sources that he is an excellent speaker. ... He has his finger on the pulse of what's going on in Washington. He knows about the economic climate that the members of our class will face, especially about what the defense situation will be like," she said.
Graduate Student Council President Furio Ciacci was also happy with Vest's decision. "I, for my own benefit, laid out qualities I thought the speaker should have, and this person has nearly everything. In that respect, I think he's ideal and am quite satisfied with the choice."
Ciacci continued, saying that since Aspin studied and spent time at MIT, students will be able to "relate better" to his speech. "He's familiar with the experience of the Institute," he said. Ciacci also added that the Commencement Committee "was looking for someone in Congress, and Aspin is very accomplished in that aspect."
The general opinion among seniors seems split. "I've been reading about Congressman Aspin for a long time now. Coming from MIT, he's risen to prominence and is really a good role model for students," said Roopa H. Mehendele '92.
Craig W. Griffin '92 agreed. "It might be interesting to hear from [Aspin's] perspective on how MIT will be affected by the changes in military spending and how MIT is adjusting now that the Cold War is over," he said.
Some students, however, were very disappointed with the selection. "I was hoping that (Sen.) Al Gore (D-Tenn.) was going to speak -- that's who I asked for," said Christopher M. Rein '92. Rein added that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton would also "have been a better choice."
Joshua M. Holden '92 was in full agreement with Rein. "We don't need a defense man to speak at commencement. Al Gore would have been a much better choice -- he's a technology guy." Holden added that some students "probably haven't even heard" of Aspin.One student even commented that her parents were pleased with the choice. "My dad can't wait to come here to hear him speak," said Barbara A. Sigmund '92. "He's been bugging me about who was going to be chosen, and is finally off my back because he's psyched about the choice," she said.