Commencements take on Sept. 11 flavor

NEW YORK, April 9 (UPI) -- To no one's surprise, this year's university commencement season will have a pronounced Sept. 11 flavor, with national and local figures that stepped forward in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks dominating graduation ceremonies.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani dominates the list so far with addresses scheduled at Syracuse and Georgetown. Dozens of others are courting him.


Syracuse University spokeswoman Sara Mortimer said the drive to get Giuliani began last year when students were asked for their preferences.

"It began in late fall, when Sept. 11 was still fresh in everyone's mind," she said.

Giuliani is also going to Shanksville-Stony Creek High School in Pennsylvania, near the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11. Authorities believe passengers tried to get control of the plane from hijackers.

"Our graduating class seems to have an affinity for the ex-mayor," said school Superintendent Gary Singel. "He seems to be a very standup person who did not put himself above the tragedy."

Graduation addresses by the nation's ultimate commencement speaker, President Bush, won't be made public for weeks for security reasons, but he can be counted on to make a handful, including at least one at one of the nation's military academies.


Stanford University has locked up Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser and a former provost at the California institution.

One of the busiest speakers will be New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. He will speak at Manhattanville College at Purchase, N.Y.; Kinsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Caldwell College in Caldwell, N.J.; and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.

"Bernard Kerik is an inspiration to us all," said Manhattanville President Richard A. Berman. "His work ethic, his personal quest, his passion for doing the right thing and his commitment to community speak directly to Manhattanville's core values."

Former Secretary of State James Baker will speak at Princeton University's "class day," normally a lighter affair the day before graduation. Comedian Bill Cosby was the speaker last year, but students said they needed a more serious approach this year.

Princeton graduates also will have an option to wear a red-white-and-blue ribbon on their traditional "class day" jackets. Sixty percent have chosen to do so.

NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of "Meet the Press," will speak at Oklahoma's graduation ceremonies May 11 at the invitation of university President David Boren, a former senator.


Port Authority Lt. John Collins never in his life expected to deliver a commencement address, but he'll be there at Kean University's graduation in Union, N.J.

"I'm going to focus on the opportunities life gives us and the choices made by people who passed away on Sept. 11," Collins said. "I'm hoping the students get the message that everyone is capable of extraordinary things."

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