Princeton nabs Beast Mode as their Class Day speaker... but the students try to give him the stiff arm

Is it possible to be crustier and more uptight than this?

In “we swear it’s not from The Onion” news, Ivy League school Princeton University announced that their 2020 Class Day speaker will be Oakland’s own Marshawn Lynch.

“We wanted a Class Day speaker who unapologetically embodied and advocated for our own identities and values.”⁣

@NFL running back, social activist and #firstgen student athlete Marshawn Lynch (@beastmode) has been picked to address the senior class on Monday, June 1. 🏈 #Princetagram
February 25, 2020

Class Day is a senior-led event that is planned in celebration of the seniors… it basically sounds like a morning circlejerk followed by lunch.

Although it varies from year to year, the event traditionally gives seniors an opportunity to acknowledge publicly achievements and contributions of members of the class and University community.

The program includes the awarding of various prizes to classmates, student speeches, honorary class member inductions, a guest speaker selected by the class, and remarks by President  Christopher L. Eisgruber.

I may be an eensy bit biased, but Lynch seems like a great choice as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear from someone who was successful at the highest level of his industry, started a clothing line with two retail locations, and is a co-founder of a philanthropic foundation that educates and empowers underprivileged youth. Lynch is also a charismatic orator with a unique life perspective who would probably be far more memorable than some rando alum businessowner; it also ties in thematically with this year marking 150 years of college football, with Princeton being one of the participants in that game. The student co-chairs said the following about their selection while extolling Lynch’s community service:

“Mr. Lynch’s sustained professional excellence is not the only reason we are excited to have him serve as our Class Day speaker. His substantive work in communities stands alongside his on-field success,” the students said. “Our goal was to invite a speaker who embodies the various experiences we have shared as a community during our Princeton tenure; someone whose professional and personal passions speak to the service-focused and intellectually rigorous interests core to the University.”

“Before we began the selection process, the Class Day Committee reflected deeply on shared values and variety of experiences of the Class of 2020 and our time at Princeton,” [Jonathan] Haynes said. “We ultimately wanted to prioritize a speaker that moved beyond rhetoric in their personal and professional lives, but actively integrated their values into their practice. With those considerations, I could not think of a better speaker than Marshawn Lynch.”

“We wanted a Class Day speaker who unapologetically embodied and advocated for our own identities and values,” [Jaylin] Lugardo said. “Being a first-generation, low-income student was the source of my greatest challenges and successes at Princeton, and it’s an identity I can’t imagine disappears after graduating. So, I’m grateful to have Marshawn Lynch, having completed his journey as a first-gen student-athlete at [Berkeley], speaking at Class Day.”

Ignoring the fact they inexplicably used a semicolon in place of an em dash, they have an apt understanding of Lynch’s accomplishments and all that he embodies, relating it to the Princeton experience and justifying this unusual pairing.

In response, four named Princeton seniors and an unstated number of anonymous seniors wrote an open letter to complain about the lack of transparency in the selection process and to express their “disappoint[ment]” after anxiously awaiting this selection for months.

First of all, who really sits around for months wondering who will give a speech to their graduating class? Aside from that, their complaints focus on the fact that Lynch has no connection to the school and from press conferences and interviews when he does not answer media questions, which they feel somehow contradicts the criteria for speaker selection.

Having not attending Princeton—which the open letter states is something they value as it allows for shared experiences—I have never actually been a member of their Class Day. But from other graduation and commencement ceremonies, I think these students are overvaluing the speaker’s influence on their ceremony. They’re also missing out on the lesson that you can—and should—take something away from any person from any walk of life and that they can have shared experiences and philosophies despite superficial differences.

Graduating from college is tough and I commend these students for being smart enough to accomplish that, but it sounds like some of them need to approach this with an open mind for the unique opportunity and take care of their mentals.