Kerry at CommencementGAMBIER, Ohio (February 16, 2006) U.S. Senator John F. Kerry will present the Commencement address at Kenyon's 178th graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 20.
Kerry was the Democratic challenger to President George W. Bush in 2004, in a closely fought election that culminated in Ohio, whose Election Day drama included a noteworthy chapter featuring Kenyon students. Indeed, the senior class invited Kerry to speak in part as a way of recognizing that extraordinary day--a memorable moment in their own college careers that also became, for many around the nation, an inspiring lesson in civic involvement.
Kenyon students, most of them voting in their first presidential election, found themselves waiting up to eleven hours to cast their ballots, as the village's two voting machines were overwhelmed by the heavy turnout. The polls in Gambier couldn't close until nearly 4:00 a.m., making the village community center the last voting precinct in the Eastern time zone to shut its doors. The students' determination to vote caught the attention of the national news media, and a number were interviewed on radio and television, earning praise from commentators as well as Kenyon alumni and parents.
"It's an honor for me to speak at Kenyon College. These are some of the most passionate, dedicated, involved young Americans out there, and as graduates they will go from being student activists to citizen activists," says Kerry. "Their generation will help shape and even decide many of the most important issues and biggest debates America will face in the twenty-first century."
Kerry is serving his fourth term as a senator representing Massachusetts. A 1966 graduate of Yale University, he volunteered for service with the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, where he was decorated with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. After leaving the service, he became active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War and co-founded Vietnam Veterans of America, gaining wide attention in 1971 when he spoke out against the war in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry went on to Boston College Law School, graduating in 1976 and working as a county prosecutor before winning election as the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982. He was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Shortly thereafter, he served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. Today Kerry serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and he is the ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Kenyon's Commencement will be held on the lawn of Samuel Mather Hall, with the ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m. The rain site is the Kenyon Athletic Center.