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.

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