EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Chris LaPlaca, will be the keynote speaker at St. Bonaventure University’s 157th Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2017. LaPlaca, Class of 1979, topped the senior class’ list of potential commencement speakers. LaPlaca is one of several ESPN executives and commentators participating in commencement ceremonies this spring (see sidebar below). In this essay, he shares with Front Row his approach to writing the speech and his thoughts about the vintage picture of his St. Bonaventure graduation above.
People tell me being the commencement speaker at your alma mater is a big deal, and I am inclined to agree … though I’ve asked a lot of folks if they remembered who their speaker was, and many have said no.
That’s good news since it sets a really low bar for me. Just be remembered!
For the first time in the history of my alma mater, St. Bonaventure, the seniors were allowed to choose their speaker. The fact that they chose me says a lot more about ESPN than it does me.
The best advice I’ve been given about writing and delivering a commencement speech: Be entertaining. My kids think I’m a good storyteller, so that’s what I’m going to do – tell stories that deliver the learnings I’ve acquired along the way.
I’m confident I’ll relate; this picture is of my parents and me during my graduation week, which I remember vividly.
I’ve kept it in my desk at ESPN all these years not because of how I rocked that hair, or the Reggie Jackson-style tinted glasses – but because it melds two great sources of learning for me, my parents and SBU, and because of the look of pride on their faces.
Pride is what graduation day is about in many respects. It will all come full circle May 14 – Mother’s Day.