Oh, the places you’ll go …

Controversy erupted last week when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was announced as the commencement speaker for the 150th graduating class from Northwestern University.

According to angry comments on the Web site of The Daily Northwestern, some seniors were incredibly dissatisfied with only having the mayor of Chicago send them off at their graduation.

The general sentiment expressed by some NU seniors was that Daley was not a big enough name for the ceremony. Others still complained that his relative proximity wasn’t anything that special. After the hype provided by NU President Henry Bienen, seniors expected someone with the star power of newly crowned Democratic nominee Barack Obama, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair or even the Dalai Llama.

The Chicago Tribune reports that senior Matthew Braslow sent an e-mail to Bienen stating in part, “If your goal in the speaker selection process was to make graduating seniors happy about leaving this university, then mission accomplished.” Braslow later stated that he will not show up to commencement.

Bienen responded, “Matthew, grow up … You also sound like a very unhappy person. I am sorry for that. Hopefully things will improve for you over the years.”

To outside observers, these students seem to embody a negative stereotype about Northwestern. That is, students believing themselves to be entitled based on their wealth, social standing or the very institution that they attend. Berating the choice of Daley, an undeniably notable political figure that leads one of the best cities in the world, smacks of arrogance and ungratefulness.

The truth is, one’s commencement speaker does not determine the value of your educational experience. Refusing to attend your own commencement because the Mayor of Chicago isn’t good enough for you is perhaps a sign that college hasn’t prepared you to be an adult.

In a sign of sanity and maturity, some Northwestern seniors are doing the classy thing and gathering signatures for an apology that will be sent to Mayor Daley.

Regardless of how the mayor’s speech goes, this act of contrition and appreciation should be what’s remembered about the 150th Northwestern class.