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Adam Silver is the commencement speaker we want, we crave, we need


Last week, Adam Silver was announced as Duke’s 2023 commencement speaker. And by gosh, by golly, did I nearly piss myself from excitement. 

Some of my classmates were confused. “Who is Adam Silver? What is he going to talk about? Do they mean the author, Adam Silvera, of ‘They Both Die At the Endfame?” 

But I was quick to tell them everything they needed to know. 

“Adam Silver,” I said, reciting his Wikipedia page from memory, “Not to be confused with American author Adam Silvera, is an American lawyer and sports executive who serves as the fifth and current commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA).” 

He is also my hero. 

That’s how I know that Adam Silver is the only person that is worthy of speaking at our 2023 commencement. He is kind, he is virtuous, he is godlike. He is the voice that our seniors want, nay, need to hear as they begin the next chapters of their lives. For the next few months, I will be teetering on the edge of my figurative seat, waiting to find out what priceless wisdom he will impart upon the class of 2023.

Because Mr. Silver has a breathtaking variety of life experiences to draw from. Take, for example, his early story. Raised in Westchester, Mr. Silver worked his whole life to overcome his humble beginnings as the child of a lawyer in a New York suburb. He then battled his way through the notoriously rigorous Duke political science program, learning some really important things along the way, no doubt.

He even ran for student government president during his time at Duke, and losing that election only made him hungrier for success. Unlike most Duke political science grads, Mr. Silver blazed his own trail, learning the intricacies of American law at the University of Chicago before working as a clerk and eventually joining a prestigious firm. 

Beyond his humble roots, it is Mr. Silver’s current job as NBA commissioner that especially lends itself to providing great advice for Duke students. I am not entirely sure what a commissioner does, but Mr. Silver makes $10 million a year so the role must be really important to the fabric of society. 

He is also a warrior of equity. In his tenure as commissioner, he has made bold stands against evils like sexism by setting achievable and measurable standards for female advancement, like that time he bravely said he would be “disappointed” if he didn’t see a female head coach in the NBA in the next five years. 

Or that time (last month) when he drew a bucket of love from his impossibly deep well of forgiveness and honored former player Karl “The Mailman” Malone, who narrowly avoided statutory rape charges when he was in college. But don’t let the media twist that story to convince you that Mr. Silver doesn’t take sexual misconduct seriously – former Hornets’ player Dwight Howard, for instance, got slapped with a $35,000 fine in 2017 for performing a gesture that hinted at his post-game snack of choice so obscene, so profane, so shocking, that my editor forbade me from even thinking about it, and certainly from linking directly to an article which has a picture of said gesture if you scroll down just a little bit. 

Critics may say that Mr. Silver, as a Duke grad, was one of the only people that would agree to speak at commencement after last year’s debacle, and that Obama, a Harvard Law graduate, said no to Duke, citing concerns that he might have to compete with a plagiarized Harvard speech. 

This may or may not be true, but we should judge Mr. Silver based on his own inspiring record. It would be wrong to create arbitrary, unrealistic and honestly potentially really harmful standards for commencement speakers. Who are we, as an institution, to develop a litmus test of wokeness based on something as immaterial as a proven desire to make the world a better place?

I even understand that some uninformed souls may bemoan the selection of Mr. Silver as a step backwards for Duke. They may deride him as “just another cis/straight/rich/white/man.” They may say things like “Why couldn’t we get Obama?”

These critics are fools. A commencement speaker isn’t supposed to be just the most famous person that will email President Price back. A commencement speaker is supposed to teach us, to inspire us, to impart wisdom unto us. No one, and I mean no one, could do this better than Mr. Silver. 

If you’re looking for Monday Monday on the morning of May 14, 2023, you know where you’ll find me.

I’ll be at Wallace Wade. My ears will be freshly cleaned. God willing, it’ll be a cloudless day, so I can witness the North Carolinian sun shimmering off of Mr. Silver’s beautiful bald head. And as the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” fades, I’ll be facing the stage, slack-jawed and salivating in anticipation of Mr. Silver’s speech. 

Monday Monday is annoyed about being on the same publishing schedule as Dean Powery, who is a better writer and probably gets his work to the editor ahead of schedule.


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