Former Obama Speechwriter to Speak at Pitzer Commencement

Pitzer College confirmed that Jon Lovett, a comedian and political writer, will deliver the keynote speech at the college’s 2013 commencement.

Lovett is the co-creator and head writer of NBC’s sitcom 1600 Penn. He has also been a speechwriter for both President Barack Obama and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, as well as a standup comedian in New York. He graduated from Williams College in 2004, making him just over 30 years old.

Senior Class President Andres Peña PZ ’13 and Commencement Committee Chair Hallory Sindelar PZ ’13 facilitated the decision process. Each year, the students in these two positions create a voting method for deciding who will speak.

This year, seniors first requested speakers they felt would be good candidates for the position. The committee then narrowed down the list to a number of candidates who were available, affordable, and within the professions in which students were interested. Two of the most popular professions were politics and comedy. Lovett’s age did not affect his being chosen by the committee.

“Age was not even a factor,” Peña said. “We simply [considered] what genre of speech [Pitzer seniors] wanted for graduation, so comic and political were the favorites; that’s how we finalized the list of candidates.”

With this list, seniors first voted for their top five choices, followed by their top two choices and, finally, by their top choice. Lovett was chosen over journalist Amy Goodman by 14 votes.

Pitzer students expressed a wide range of opinions about the speaker choice. Some students felt his young age made him inexperienced and would make him harder to take seriously. Others thought his age made him inspiring and accessible. John Ray PZ ’13 was happy with the choice and voted for Lovett.

“As one of Obama’s key speechwriters, [Lovett] has his foot on the pulse of America’s political present and future,” Ray said.

Ray, a political psychology major, thinks Lovett was a good choice because political studies is one of the most popular majors at Pitzer.

Age aside, Lovett meshes well with his predecessors. Pitzer’s four most recent keynote speakers have been involved in either politics or comedy.

Angela Davis, the 2012 keynote speaker, is a political activist, scholar, and author; Max Brooks, the 2011 speaker, is an author, screenwriter, and former member of the Saturday Night Live writing team; Cory A. Booker, the 2010 speaker, is a politician; and David Feldman, the 2009 speaker, is a comedy writer and performer.

Pitzer’s 2013 commencement will be the college’s 49th and will be held Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m.

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