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Govs to Grads: Goodbye and Good Luck!

by Pauline Vu, Stateline.org Staff Writer

Kaine

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) speaks to graduates at the Virginia Military Institute commencement. (Photo by Kevin Remington, Virginia Military Institute)

Like any graduating class, the crop of governors giving commencement addresses in 2007 had its own standouts.

Most Popular: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D), who — with 8 commencement speeches — far out-orated his fellow governors.

Most Unique: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who delivered an address to a graduating class of one.

Class Clown: Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), who drew laughs from Southern Utah University students for his frank talk about the bottom line: “Cost of tuition for a semester at SUU: $1,800. Cost of textbooks for that semester: $400. The looks on your family members’ faces when you’ve finally reached today: priceless.”

This year at least 22 governors — 15 Democrats and seven Republicans — made the commencement rounds to laud graduates.

Governors and their speechwriters largely adhered to commencement clichĂ©s: They congratulated grads, encouraged them to reach for the stars, and cited cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s comment that commencement speeches were invented largely in the belief that graduates “should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.” To which Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) added, “If I cannot be transcendentally inspirational, I at least hope not to sedate you.”

But one governor strayed from the usual script. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) used the University of Massachusetts-Boston podium to unveil an ambitious, 10-year education plan that includes universal preschool, all-day kindergarten, extending the school day and year, plus free community college.

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