- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

Graduating seniors at colleges and universities across the nation have one last test to pass this spring: a slew of speeches by prospective 2008 presidential candidates whose chief aim at commencement exercises will be to rally support from young voters.

Ohio, a battleground state in the 2004 election, played host to Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who saluted graduates at Kenyon College on Saturday. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, mentioned often as a Republican contender for ‘08, will address the Ohio State University’s seniors on June 11.

Mr.McCain last week used a commencement speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to mend political fences with the school’s founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Facing re-election in New York this fall, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat, is staying local, offering her words to the graduating classes at New York’s Buffalo State College, Long Island University and Adelphi University.

At both Buffalo and Long Island, Mrs. Clinton took time to promote the Student-Borrowers Bill of Rights legislation she plans to introduce in the Senate.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat sometimes mentioned as a rival to Mrs. Clinton for the ‘08 presidential nomination, told graduates at Wake Forest in North Carolina to “reject cynicism and shallow posturing.”

In his May 15 speech, Mr. Warner discussed the “age of amazing technological achievement” and how Americans must avoid the temptations of self-absorbency in an “IPod age,” but also addressed current political themes. Speaking about issues such as global warming, Mr. Warner referred to “massive budget deficits” that “undermine our ability to meet these challenges.”

President Bush already has squeezed in two commencement addresses at Oklahoma State University and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he spoke optimistically about energy costs, technological change and virtue in a more globalized world.

Other figures from the political world who will address the class of ‘06 include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat;former President Bill Clinton; retired Gen. Wesley Clark; Vice President Dick Cheney; and Supreme CourtChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Other graduates may be able to escape politics on commencement day, with speeches by such nonpolitical celebrities as champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong at Tufts University in Massachusetts and actress Jodie Foster at the University of Pennsylvania. Elsewhere, the class of ‘06 might imagine they have accidentally tuned into a TV news broadcast, with addresses by such anchors as NBC’s Brian Williams (Seton Hall in New Jersey), PBS’ Jim Lehrer (Harvard), and Brit Hume of Fox News (Patrick Henry College in Virginia).

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