Christopher Buckley ’75, the satirical author and political commentator, will give the Class Day speech at this year’s commencement.
Buckley, the son of famed conservative William F. Buckley ’50, will speak on Sunday, May 24, before a crowd of thousands on Old Campus. In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Buckley confirmed the selection and tossed off a few potential issues a hypothetical speech might address.
“I would probably in the first paragraph explain how to solve the financial crisis,” Buckley quipped, “In the second paragraph, I think I would deal swiftly with how to achieve peace in the Middle East. And in the third paragraph I would probably talk about how to get a job at Starbucks.”
A person familiar with Buckley confirmed his selection to the News on Tuesday afternoon. After declining to confirm or deny Tuesday afternoon that Buckley was their choice, members of the Senior Class Council — who were tasked with choosing the Class Day speaker — later issued a statement Tuesday evening announcing Buckley’s selection.
Associate Dean of Yale College Penelope Laurans, who helps coordinate Class Day events, said Buckley is a wise choice for the speech, not least because of his “panache.”
“He’s an interesting and accomplished figure,” Laurans said. “And he’s had a varied and fascinating career — the kind many Yalies hope they might have.”
Indeed, Buckley has at times been a novelist, editor, speechwriter and merchant marine. Buckley, who co-founded the Yale Daily News Magazine as an undergraduate, is perhaps best known for his works of political satire, including the novel-turned-movie “Thank You For Smoking.” Buckley also served as chief speechwriter for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush ’48 in the 1980s.
Buckley made headlines this past October when he endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential election. Soon after Buckley wrote a column declaring his support for Obama, he announced his resignation from the National Review, the prominent conservative magazine founded by his father.
In an e-mail to the class of 2009, members of the SCC commended Buckley as an “engaging and inspiring addition to this year’s Class Day proceedings” who will “appeal to students of all political persuasions.”
Last year’s Class Day speaker was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose son Euan graduated in 2008 from a two-year master’s program in international relations at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Newsweek International editor and Yale Corporation fellow Fareed Zakaria ’86 spoke the year before that. In 2006, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper ’89 took the stage.
The elder Buckley was a prolific commencement speaker, who delivered addresses everywhere from the United States Military Academy at West Point to Johns Hopkins University. His first such address, though, came in 1950 at his own Class Day.
“The role of the so-called conservative is a difficult one,” William Buckley said in the speech. “A starry-eyed young man, nevertheless aggressive in his wisdom, flaunting the badge of custodian of the common man, approaches our neat, sturdy white house and tells us we must destroy it, rebuild it of crystallized cold cream, and paint it purple. ‘But we like it the way it is,’ we retort feebly. ‘Rip ’er down! This is changing world.’ ”
While Christopher Buckley might not have the same ideological views as his father, the family wit remains. When reached early Tuesday evening before the SCC had confirmed his selection, Buckley initially declined to comment.
“If it’s true,” he said, “it’s appalling.”