Class Day speaker remains a mystery

On Feb. 8 of last year, members of the class of 2007 knew that Fareed Zakaria ’86 would be their Class Day speaker. The year and a month before that — Jan. 12 — the class of 2006 learned that Anderson Cooper ’89 would deliver the Class Day address.

But this year, as the calendar turns to May, seniors, who will graduate in only 25 days, have still not been told who will speak on their penultimate day as students in Yale College.

For security reasons, the University says, the identity of this year’s speaker is being withheld — for now, at least. But that has not stopped a few members of the class from speculating.

Seniors who purported to be in the know offered up primarily one name: former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will teach a course at the University during the next academic year.

Still, those involved with planning Class Day remain mum — at least to the News. And University officials would not comment on the prospect of Blair, or anyone else, coming to speak.

“We had hoped to release speaker’s name in late February or early March,” said Senior Class Treasurer Sabrina Howell ’08. But, alas, the SCC’s hopes were dashed by the United States Department of State, SCC officers and Yale administrators have said.

Howell only offered that Yale officials have been “in regular contact” with both the State Department and the Secret Service in preparation for the address but that neither the Senior Class Council nor the University could reveal any further details.

“That’s pretty much all we can say,” she added, “although we do want to emphasize that the speaker is confirmed.”

Yale’s director of public affairs, Helaine Klasky, released a statement attributing the delay to security concerns.

“We have been asked for security reasons not to release the name of the Class Day speaker,” Klasky said.

Blair’s son, Euan Blair GRD ’08, will graduate this spring from a two-year master’s program in international relations at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The elder Blair earlier this semester accepted an appointment as a visiting fellow next year at the School of Management and Divinity School; in that post, he will teach a seminar on the subject of faith and globalization in the fall semester and also participate in several public events on campus.

Euan Blair did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.

Although many seniors interviewed said they had no idea as to the identity of the speaker, some repeated rumors, heard “from friends,” that placed Blair at the Old Campus podium to deliver the keynote address of Yale’s Commencement week. Other possible speakers bandied about included Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and the former Vice President Al Gore, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Jessica Kimball ’08 was among the students who suggested Blair might be the mystery speaker. How did she know? “I’ve heard from people,” the Silliman College senior replied.

Confronted with the rumors, SCC officials again declined to comment. A spokesman for Blair did not respond to an e-mail message Wednesday.

Howell said the SCC would jump at the chance to release the speaker’s identity. The decision of when to do so, they said emphatically, is out of their hands.

At stake, they said, is the possibility that the speaker might cancel the address should his or her identity be revealed before the agreed-upon date.

“Essentially the closer to the date that the speaker’s identity is released, the lesser the threat to the speaker’s security,” Howell said. “If the speaker’s identity is announced in advance evermore security is required — the government agencies have made that clear.”

—Eric Anderson and Sophia Chen contributed reporting.


  • Alum

    did the class of '03 not find out that Bush and Hilary were coming for commencement weekend until this late in the semester? If not, how can security concerns now be any greater than they were for those two? And come to think of it, Harvard had already announced it was getting Bill Clinton by this time last year, right?

  • Rudy

    The fact that the State Dept. was involved argues against any presidential candidate and in favor of Blair. It has to be someone international that nutballs might protest (or harm). Any foreign dignitaries scheduled to visit the U.S. during that time period other than Blair?

  • preparing the protest

    the two only people I can think of that would warrant such security: (1) Bush, (2) Condi

  • Anonymous

    "At stake, they said, is the possibility that the speaker might cancel the address should his or her identity be revealed before the agreed-upon date."

    I bet it's Zorro.

  • Anderson Cooper

    I bet Yale is trying to one up Columbia. Instead of Ahmadinejad they are going to bring the Ayatollah himself! Take that Lee Bollinger.

  • lol

    Probably Hu Jintao.

  • y08

    What about Hu Jintao? Given Levin's buddy-buddy relationship with the guy, it wouldn't surprise me. Also, all of the security stuff would make sense given what's been going on in Tibet and with the Olympic Torch protests.

    That said, if it is him, I'm going to boycott.

  • y10

    If it's Hu Jintao, I'm going to be pissed for all the 2008ers who have to hear a dictator speak at commencement.

  • Anonymous

    You idiots, look at the line about "rumors" under the title of the article. It says RIGHT THERE who the speaker is.

  • @ #9

    who? Zachary Abrahamson & Thomas Kaplan?

  • Anonymous

    Um ABOVE their names.

  • Anonymous

    i don't know about abrahamson -- like, really? -- but thomas kaplan would be an absolute steal for class day speaker.

  • Kofi

    I think I've got it figured out. If it's not Blair, then expect:

    Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Prime Minister of Malaysia),
    Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General, United Nations, New York),
    Gordon Brown (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom),
    H.R.H Hussam Bin Saud Bin Abdulaziz (Saudi Prince),
    Yasuo Fukuda (Prime Minister of Japan),
    Anwar M. Gargash (Minister of State for Federal National Council),
    Affairs of United Arab Emirates),
    Mohamed Baker Ghalibaf (Mayor of Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran),
    Ferenc Gyurcsany (Prime Minister of Hungary),
    Hamid Karzai (President of Afghanistan),
    Lee Hsien-Loong (Prime Minister of Singapore),
    Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (President of the Philippines),
    Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya (Sultan of the Bamum, Cameroon),
    Seyed Mojtaba Samare Hashemi Shajareh (First Adviser to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran),
    Alvaro Uribe Velez (President of Colombia),
    Abdoulaye Wade (President of Senegal),
    Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (President of Nigeria),
    Viktor A. Yushchenko (President of Ukraine),
    Robert B. Zoellick (President, World Bank) — or
    Jacob G. Zuma (President, African National Congress)

    As for me, I'm putting my money on Bin Saud Bin or Njoya.

  • y10

    If it was Tony Blair, there would NOT be this much security. An ex-PM does not warrant more secrecy than the President of the United States.

  • Anonymous

    i heard it's Ban Ki-moon

  • anonymous

    leon powe would be a good bet

  • Anonymous

    i heard it was Whitney Houston

  • Anonymous

    Hu Jintao is a great leader, OK? Stop being arrogant.

  • Recent Alum

    I have nothing against Hu Jintao and he would make a great speaker, but considering that even President Bush would probably attract protests by a fraction of the student body and faculty, surely one can expect even more protests for Hu Jintao, right?

  • "arrogant"

    Apparently it's arrogant to call a spade a spade. Only here at Yale.

  • Optimist

    It is Michael Jordan, obvi.

  • Anonymous

    It's going to be Kusoke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs.

  • Anonymous

    inside scoop. it's going to be the dalai lama

  • SY 06

    There is no way it is Hu Jintao. He came to Yale two years ago for a speech and considering there was a five block security perimeter, there is no way they are going to allow him to speak in front of thousands of people outdoors. They couldnt make security tight enough. Also, there is no way he would come to the United States just for one speech. There would be all sorts of other meetings set up in Washington and you would be hearing about it.

    Maybe the state department is involved because John Gaddis called in a favor to our embassy in the after life (or if he isnt dead, the embassy where Tupac and Biggie live) and is bringing Ronald Reagan to come speak.

  • Woodbridge Insider

    Its HM Queen Elizabeth II.

    You didn't hear it from me though.

  • je2010

    I for one will be very disappointed if it's Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs. I think that Yale should be able to get someone groundbreaking like Hideo Nomo.

  • Anonymous

    gotta be blair

  • Anonymous

    i heard it was andrew mangino. MANGINO FTW

  • Anonymous

    i think the more pertinent question is what exactly is the date in which Yale is allowed to reveal our speaker…

  • It's a lock:

    Kim Jong-il

  • the speaker is

    blair… blair WALDORF.

  • Anonymous

    this thread = best procrastination ever.

  • Anonymous

    so finally we know…its tony blair.

  • Anonymous

    Where's the debate to protest Shvarts walking?

  • me

    I vote for Aleksey Vayner. Plus, he can protect the Dalai Lama if he shows up.

  • Anonymous

    this is such BS. if it's such a big deal to have blair speak at class day, how the hell is yale going to have him teach a class here for a semester? this doesn't make any sense. enough already.

  • Ben

    This isn't news. It's speculation and gossip. Cut the garbage and report on something!

  • hc

    The class is going to have a different location every session and the member of the class will not be emailed that location until right before the class starts. ridiculousness.

  • alum

    since blair isn't he brit PM anymore, the secret service and state department wouldn't be involved. secret service will only protect a sitting head of state. he wouldn't require that much cooperation or secrecy. it's no secret he'll be at yale every other week in the fall. i'm betting on hu jintao.

  • alum

    Its probably part of the extra compensation package Yale sought for accepting Blair's underqualified son as a grad student last year.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    On March 25 the YDN printed this quote regarding Blair's teaching post: “The U.S. Secret Service would have nothing to do with setting up security for Mr. Blair,” Darrin Blackford, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said.


  • Anonymous

    i heard it was going to be obama. when are they going to tell us??????? this is absolutely ridiculous.

  • joey h

    Sara !

  • JHC

    calling special operative Robbin .
    fzzrrr we have lost contact with agent
    ….HesselPFizzer can you hear me ?

  • heartsurgeon

    I'm thinking it's Cheney…Yep, Cheney, or maybe Karl Rove..

  • Anonymous

    you're all wrong. its going to be puff daddy

  • speculator

    lawrence summers?

  • stressed out at yale

    it can't be hu jintao. medvedev is visiting china on the 23rd and 24th, so it isn't exactly feasible. hopefully yale invited kelly hu instead.

  • Ed Sullivan

    It will be Aliza Shvarts and her trained ovaries, only because Topo Gigio was unavailable at press time

  • leaker

    It's Pope Benedict.

  • alumnus

    What is this, the Yale Daily List of Stuff Our Reporters Couldn't Find Out?

    At least Kaplan has a wider repertoire than rephrasing press releases about West Campus.

  • Anonymous

    It'll be Wen Jiabao.

  • Anonymous

    General David Petraeus

  • Anonymous

    General Petraeus, with his two Princeton degrees, would be a noble choice.

  • I'm betting…

    Bush (Sr.) and Clinton (Bill).

  • Anonymous

    its already official. its tony blair. now stop surmising.

  • Anonymous

    i heard Tony Blair might be a cover for the real speaker

  • Anonymous

    Worst mystery ever.