College officials announced today that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will speak at this year’s Commencement, slated for Sunday, June 12, at 10 a.m.
Baker will receive an honorary doctorate of laws degree at Union’s 222nd Commencement, which will be held on Hull Plaza, where more than 550 Union students will also receive degrees during the ceremony, according to a news release from the Office of Communications and Marketing.
The Massachusetts governor is the father of Andrew “A.J.” Baker ’16, a political science major and co-captain of the football team.
A.J. Baker said of the news, “More than anything, I’m excited to hear what he has to say. I’ve seen him give plenty of speeches, on a multitude of topics and channeling all types of different emotions, so it will be really cool to see my dad (who I know as a guy that loves chocolate chip cookies and Tom Brady) address the college I have attended and come to appreciate so much.”
President of Student Forum Ilan Levine ’16 also stated that he “was very excited to learn that (the governor) will be speaking at Commencement this year.”
Levine added, “Two qualities make a Commencement speaker great: personal success with valuable contributions to society and the ability to impart wisdom on the graduating class. Gov. Baker has not only been an instrumental politician for Massachusetts with a long record of service to the state, but he was also a CEO.”
The governor, a Republican, served in cabinet positions for two Massachusetts governors during the 1990s and as the chief executive officer of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care from 1999 to 2009, according to the Union news release.
He was elected as the 72nd governor of Massachusetts in 2014 and was inaugurated on Jan. 8, 2015. Baker currently has the highest approval rating of any governor in the United States, according to the Boston Globe.
A.J. Baker also noted that his father “has given commencement speeches before, including one at Suffolk University” and, last year, at the high school graduation of Caroline Baker, Gov. Baker’s daughter.
President Stephen C. Ainlay stated, “We are honored to have Gov. Baker address our graduates. His record of public service and leadership in both the public and private sector is inspiring. I’ve also gotten to know him as a Union parent, and I’m confident our next generation of leaders will be inspired by his message.”
Baker will be the fourth governor to give a Commencement address at Union, and the first governor to speak at Commencement since New York Gov. Thomas Dewey in 1950.
A.J. Baker reiterated that he is very excited for his father to be the Commencement speaker, stating, “For him, I know that giving these speeches and being on stage when his kids walk across is very special, and it absolutely is for us, too.”
He believes that, for those who do not know his father already, the governor’s Commencement speech “will be a unique introduction, and hopefully a really positive one.”
Last year’s Commencement speaker was Devin Wenig, a member of the Class of 1988 and the chief executive officer and president of eBay.
According to Union’s Director of Media and Public Relations Philip Wajda, the process for choosing the Commencement speaker is informal, though special consideration is given to potential speakers “if there is a meaningful connection to the graduating class, such as this year.”
President Ainlay ultimately makes the decision of who will speak at Commencement, “with the approval of the Board of Trustees.”
Gov. Charlie Baker has been in the news recently, following New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Baker, who originally endorsed Christie, has refused to endorse Trump, stating that he did not vote for Trump (or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) in the Massachusetts Republican primary on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.