The University Law School announced yesterday that U.S. Sen. and Law School alum Rob Portman (R–Ohio) will be this year’s Law School commencement speaker.
Portman wrote in a University press release issued yesterday that he is looking forward to talking to students at his alma mater as they prepare to enter the professional world.
“The University of Michigan Law School is a model for academic excellence, preparing our best and brightest young minds for challenging careers ahead,” Portman wrote. “I feel honored as an alum to speak to the future leaders of our country as they prepare to take their next steps in life.”
Law School Dean Evan Caminker wrote in the press release that Portman is a role model for many students who are still considering various career prospects after receiving a law degree.
“With his broad base of experience, Senator Portman is sure to provide an inspirational commencement address for graduates who are curious about where their new Michigan law degrees can take them,” Caminker said. “Clearly, if Senator Portman’s experience is a guide, the answer to that question is — anywhere.”
Portman graduated from the University in 1984 and has since spent most of his life in public service. His career has included serving as associate counsel and director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, director of the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. trade representative and as a member of Congress. He was elected to his current senatorial position in the November 2010 election.
In addition to his public service positions, Portman has practiced law at various firms in Ohio and currently works for several non-profit boards in the Cincinnati area.
At last year’s Law School commencement, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, also a University Law School alum, was the keynote speaker.
Students expressed mixed opinions on this year’s Law School’s speaker choice. Law student Phil Zeeck said he thinks Portman has recently had a key role in American politics and will deliver an engaging speech.
“I think he’s played an important part in a lot of the national debates we’ve had over the last several years, and I think there are a lot of people in the graduating class who would be very interested in what he has to say,” Zeeck said.
However, Zeeck added that he is ambivalent about completely supporting Portman since he hails from Ohio.
“I like the fact that he’s a Michigan alum, I don’t like the fact that he’s from Ohio,” he said.
Law student Wen Fa also expressed dismay at Portman’s residential status, but said this shouldn’t be an issue among his peers.
“I think it’s fine,” he said. “We get a lot of our students from Ohio, and he’s a Michigan alum, so I don’t have any huge problems with it.”
Law student Jordan Rosenfeld said though the University has been striving to bring speakers to campus who emphasize philanthropy, he doesn’t think Portman represents the values of the Law School student body.
“I think Michigan is continuing along a path of demonstrating more commitment to public service and more pride in its public service alums,” Rosenfeld said. “I don’t necessarily think that a Republican Senator from Ohio best expresses the views of the student body or the administration.”
The Law School commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m. at Hill Auditorium.