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Thursday, November 30, 2023 — Houston, TX

Centennial year holds promising speaker line-up

8/17/12 7:00pm



The Thresher commends Rice University's choices of speakers this year, both for the Centennial Lecture series and for Rice's 100th commencement. 

The Centennial series, which includes talks by accomplished individuals such as Esther Dyson, Shirley Ann Jackson, Rem Koolhaas and J. Craig Venter, is headlined by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John G. Roberts, Jr. The Thresher is thrilled by the range of nationally recognized speakers, which truly reflects the many dimensions of Rice's academic excellence. Each of the Centennial speakers is highly lauded in his or her respective field and will surely provoke intellectual discussion amongst the Centennial celebrations. 

Chief Justice Roberts is an especially exciting speaker to have this year. After House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke on campus last year, having such an important political leader reaffirms Rice's position as a thoughtful, nationally engaged school. Chief Justice Roberts is a decisive, pivotal voice in today's politics who has a major influence on the future of the United States. His role in the country's recent health care overhaul, as well as his court's upcoming decisions regarding affirmative action and gay marriage, are actively shaping our political landscape. Being able to host one of the country's most eminent political figures is a privilege. We hope students will take advantage of the opportunities presented by the presence of these speakers. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the choice for this year's commencement speaker, is also an interesting and welcome decision. Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and the American Museum of Natural History, is also known for his contributions to NASA and occasional appearances andon comedic television shows and is sure to be a dynamic and relatable speaker. While Tyson is undoubtedly highly respected and a leader in the astrophysics field, his name may not be universally identifiable - but he has made impressive contributions and has a contagious passion. The choice represents the underlying tenets of a Rice education: to perceive value, not strictly based upon popularity and celebrity status, but by contributions to academics and the community. Additionally, inviting an astrophysicist during a year that commemorates former President John F. Kennedy's famous speech about landing on the moon seamlessly links Rice and NASA's historic commitment to innovation and exploration. 

The decisions to bring in such current, exciting and intellectually inspiring speakers demonstrate Rice's dedicated values to excellent speakers with riveting backgrounds. The Thresher looks forward to celebrating Rice's 100th birthday with these influential leaders. 

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