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Reactions: Who would you pick for Class Day speaker?

Women behind podium giving a thumbs up, with a man sitting in front of an ivy-covered building clapping behind her.
Rep. Terri Sewell ’86 was the speaker for the 2023 Class Day.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

This year, the Class Day speaker is Sam Waterston, an actor from Law & Order. Last year, Terri Sewell ’86 was the Class Day speaker although she had also spoken two months before at an event jointly hosted by Whig-Clio and Princeton College Democrats. In recent years, high-profile scientists (Anthony Fauci, 2022), comedians (Trevor Noah, 2021), and politicians (Cory Booker, 2018), have been the Class Day speakers. As we near Class Day, we asked our columnists: Who would you choose as the Class Day speaker?

Shawn Fain’s fire is what we need right now


By Alex Norbrook

“Are you willing to have faith and move that mountain? Nobody’s coming to save us.” With these words, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain prepared a crowd of auto workers for what would become a six-week rolling strike against all of the Detroit Three automobile manufacturing corporations — Stellantis NV, Ford, and General Motors — in September last year. Amid an unprecedented summer for labor organizing, Shawn Fain stook out as a pugnacious and innovative strategist, harnessing social media and employing gutsy strategies to coordinate a strike unparalleled in size and ambition. Fain led the strike to safeguard auto workers from a precarious future in which automation will eliminate many of their jobs, corporations will reap record profits while refusing to raise their wages, and low-paying temporary work will only become more prevalent. 

Auto workers will not be the only ones facing these challenges in the decades ahead. In fact, they define the world into which seniors will enter after graduation: one rife with job insecurity, sky-high economic inequality, and avaricious corporations. More than ever, they need advice from someone like Fain — someone who’s not afraid to stand up to capital to protect labor, someone who recognizes that collective action is the only way forward. If nobody’s coming to save us, we need to learn how to save ourselves. That’s where Fain can help.

Alex Norbrook is a sophomore in the history department and an Opinion columnist. He can be reached at

Kim Stanley Robinson can help us imagine a climate future that doesn’t burn

By Eleanor Clemans-Cope


As the Class of 2024 prepares for life beyond the Orange Bubble, we must collectively pause to consider the defining crisis of our generation: the climate crisis. The urgency of the moment cannot be overstated, and the choices that we make in the coming years will determine how humanity will fare in our lifetime. The science is stark. To have a 50 percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world must achieve net zero emissions by 2035, a mere decade from now. To increase those odds to 66 percent and limit warming to two degrees Celsius, the world must reach net zero emissions by 2069 — by the time we see our first grandchildren. In order to set this in motion, we need to start acting now. As the lead United Nations climate negotiator said on April 10, we have “two years to save the world.” 

Our Class Day speaker should be Kim Stanley Robinson, the visionary science fiction writer of novels such as “The Ministry for the Future” and “New York 2140” gives a vision of the possible futures we face — a call to action and a reminder that the decarbonization choices we make today will echo through centuries to come. He’s not a doomer — he writes about what could happen if we fail to decarbonize, but also the future we could achieve if we succeed. He imagines buildings retrofitted to stand stories deep in water, unconventional monetary policy to incentivize decarbonization that have inspired economic research, the conservation of wide swaths of every continent on a scale that dwarfs anything attempted in the United States. Robinson seems to have unlimited roadmaps and a hopeful vision of a world where humanity pulls itself back on track. 

In the end, the choice of a Class Day speaker is about more than a single speech. It is about the stories we tell ourselves and the vision we have of our place in the sweep of the history of humanity. Facing the challenge of the climate crisis, and creating a world with more justice while we’re at it, is going to require vision and imagination. Let us invite a storyteller that speaks to this time of crisis. 

Eleanor Clemans-Cope is a sophomore in the economics department and the head Opinion editor. She can be reached at[at] or on X at eleanorjcc.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg P ’01: a technocratic reminder to be in the service of humanity

By Preston Ferraiuolo 

It’s hard to find a sector where former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has yet to kickstart a revolution: fintech, politics, philanthropy, health advocacy, environmentalism, and more. Bloomberg spearheads Bloomberg Philanthropies, which, besides earmarking over a billion dollars to shutter 70 percent of American coal plants and contributing billions towards climate, cultural, and health causes internationally, is a large financial supporter of Princeton. The organization funds the Emma Bloomberg ’01 Center for Access and Opportunity. Demonstrating his commitment to the University’s equity goals, Bloomberg’s gift helps the center “advocate for and support first-generation/lower-income (FLI) and other historically excluded student populations.”

Bloomberg stands for the values of many Princetonians: excellence in business, the arts, environmentalism, and equity. His belief in common sense and unifying politics is perhaps most needed today. Although not without his controversies, Bloomberg ran New York City as a managerial technocrat — he wasn’t afraid to cross party lines to secure the necessary experts to deliver for New Yorkers. As young Americans, an Ipsos poll found that nearly 75 percent of our generation feels our political system is broken. Bloomberg harkens back to a style of government that seeks to deliver first and score partisan wins second, a welcomed premise during a time of increasing polarization both here on campus and beyond. His perspective will inform future leaders listening during Class Day, not just in politics, but in business, the arts, medicine, environmental sciences, and more. We need a reminder of the value of technocratic leadership guided by results, not optics. On Class Day, Princetonians celebrate what they’ve learned, and a speaker like Bloomberg will remind us to use our education in the service of humanity. 

Preston Ferraiuolo is a sophomore from Brooklyn, New York, majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs. He is an assistant Opinion editor at the ‘Prince’ and can be reached at prestonf[at]

“You’re On Your Own, Kid”

By Davis Hobley

Taylor Swift is having a moment. She has been having a moment for almost two decades, but recently, she just broke numerous charting and touring records that other artists don’t dream of touching. Swift would be the prime candidate to be Princeton’s next Class Day speaker. Her journey as a woman in the music industry has been challenging, dynamic, and inspiring, especially considering the success which she was able to reach following targeted attacks by other celebrities and the media since the start of her rise to fame. As she continues her Eras Tour, which is the first tour to gross over $1 billion in history, and gears up to release her newest album, she has reached a point in her career in which she is reflecting on the past and looking toward a new and exciting future, embodying the concept of Class Day. 

Davis Hobley is a columnist for the ‘Prince,’ and a member of the Class of 2027 who intends to major in Neuroscience. He hails from Rochester, Mich. and can be reached by email at or his personal Instagram @davis_20.23.

A joy on Class Day: Dr. Joy Buolamwini

By Wynne Conger

In a century of technological innovation, Dr. Joy Buolamwini is an emergent voice for advocacy and equal representation in the field of artificial intelligence. As the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL), best-selling author of “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What is Human in a World of Machines”, and frequent TED Talk commentator on racial and gender biases in computational technologies, Dr. Buolamwini has gone above and beyond in the fight against algorithmic injustice and discrimination. Outside of her work in social activism and urging for effective AI governance, she also serves as a contributing member on the Global Tech Panel of the European Union. For her research on inaccuracies in facial recognition technology, Forbes has recognized her as being among the youngest Top 50 Women In Tech internationally.

In a new era of technological progress, Dr. Buolamwini’s work remains a salient reminder for how all Princetonians must regard social activism: both in the service of humanity and in the pursuit of civic excellence. Her extensive efforts to advance equity, social calls for change, and distinction in the tech sector will inspire the Class of 2024 to similarly rise to action — both in their capacity as a new generation of leaders and in their capacity as global citizens. 

Wynne Conger is a first-year and prospective SPIA major from Bryn Mawr, Pa. She is an Associate Opinion editor and can be reached by email at wc2918[at]

For a man who meets the moment, Retired General Mark A. Milley

By Vincent Jiang

There is no better speaker for the moment than former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and SPIA’s newest professor, General (ret.) Mark A. Milley ’80. A member of the great Class of 1980 and a proud alumni of the Princeton politics department and the Princeton Army ROTC Program, General Milley has devoted himself to a lifetime in military service, rising to the role of the CJCS in 2018 — the highest-ranked military officer in the armed forces and the most important military advisor to the president. 

In that role, General Milley was pivotal in shaping U.S. policy during key moments of crisis such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War, as well as navigating the most sustained challenge to American civil-military relations since at least the relief of Douglas MacArthur in 1951. Never afraid to remind soldiers and civilian officials alike that they swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” his voice would be absolutely invaluable for a class of graduating seniors as they prepare for their own careers in the nation’s service and the service of humanity. 

Vincent Jiang is a junior in the SPIA department and a contributing Opinion columnist.