Pitt names U.S. Senator 2011 commencement speaker

By Skylar Wilcox

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., will speak at Pitt’s commencement ceremony next month.

The… Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., will speak at Pitt’s commencement ceremony next month.

The senator, who received his undergraduate degree from the School of Arts & Sciences in 1964, will speak at 1 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center May 1.

His selection as commencement speaker makes him the latest in a string of alumni given the honor of sending off another graduating class. Last year, alumnus and trustee John A. Swanson gave the commencement address, and before him alumni Bert O’Malley, a reknowned doctor and professor, and Dan Marino, a Hall of Fame football player, held the honor.

Cardin graduated cum laude from Pitt and was a member of Pi Lambda Phi international fraternity. After graduation, he studied at the University of Maryland School of Law. While attending law school, he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, marking the beginning of a political career that has spanned his entire adult life.

Two years after that first election, Cardin was appointed Speaker of the House of the state senate, one of the youngest in the Maryland’s history.

In 1987, Cardin moved to the federal level after he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He soon became involved in health care, pension and fiscal issues.

Four years ago, he moved to the U.S. Senate, where he now serves on several Senate financial committees that deal with funding for environmental, small business and public works projects, and several committees dedicated to foreign relations and entrepreneurship.

Pitt seniors seemed generally unfamiliar with the senator and hoped he would address issues that have been on their minds.

Greerlin Thomas, an English literature major, said that he hoped Cardin would condemn “those freaking tuition increases.”

In an interview yesterday, Cardin said that although cuts to education spending threaten the United States’ ability to “out-educate and out-innovate [its] competitors,” this year’s graduating class has felt the benefits of being educated in “one of the most advanced countries in the world and at one of the nation’s best universities.”

The senator added that he wants to encourage Pitt students to go out into the world and make the changes that they want to see. It is up to this generation to “advance the goals of the nation” and provide the same — or better — standards of education, health care and freedom that it has enjoyed in the past, he said.

Cardin said that his education at Pitt prepared him for his political career by giving him the “confidence and ambition” needed to succeed. The senator also said that his “friends from Pitt are [his] friends today,” indicating that the Pitt alumni network is extensive.