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Mike Lefevre: Student Commencement Speaker

Former Duke Student Government President Mike Lefevre will step up to the soapbox one last time.

Lefevre, a senior, will deliver the student commencement speech to the Class of 2011 at its graduation ceremony Sunday. Although his term as DSG president often required him to reflect on the entire student body, Lefevre said he approached this speech from the perspective of an observant Duke student, rather than student body president, noting that he will not mention his personal experiences at Duke in his address. The speech will focus on Duke students’ desire for community and togetherness—a message Lefevre said applies to every student.

“It’s not about me, and it’s not about policies of student government business—it’s about the shared experiences we all have,” he said. “Anyone could have written this speech.”

The student speaker selection committee—composed of students, faculty and administrators—selected Lefevre from 24 other candidates from both the undergraduate and graduate schools, said committee Chair Sterly Wilder, associate vice president for Alumni Affairs and Trinity ’83. Candidates anonymously submitted speeches for review, and after the initial review, six students were selected to deliver their seven-minute speeches to the committee.

“A lot of the speeches were really terrific­—it was a difficult choice,” she said.

Wilder added that the committee focused on finding a speaker who appealed to a broad audience, noting that Lefevre’s clear message and strong delivery made him stand out among several other talented students.

Senior Jeremy Siegel, a member of the selection committee, said the committee chose Lefevre’s speech because of its strong message that will appeal to all members of the Duke community, not just undergraduate students.

“[Lefevre] tells a certain part of the story of Duke in a way that everyone will be able to think back and have a private memory to connect with,” Siegel said. “The speech offers us a chance to reflect on what we have gotten out of our Duke experience as a whole and what will lead to the next step.”

Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, who also served on the committee, said Lefevre is a great representative for the graduating class because of the impact he has had on the University as a prominent student leader.

“Mike will come to the podium with having provided some very significant and rich leadership for Duke,” Wasiolek said. “He brings a level of experience that not many of us would be able to bring to the commencement speech.... I think that will be very evident on Sunday at commencement.”

In addition to Lefevre, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, a communication and information technology company, will serve as the commencement speaker.

Lefevre enrolled in a theater studies class during the Fall semester, which he said has helped him prepare for his address. During the Spring semester, he enlisted the help of Greg Hohn, a professor in theater studies, and Jay O’Berski, assistant professor of the practice in theater studies, to perfect the timing and delivery of the speech.

Lefevre said he hopes his address will prompt the graduates to reflect on their experiences as members of the Duke community.

“More than I love Duke itself, I love our class,” he said. “I wanted a way to communicate one last time how important it is how we have loved each other.”


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