Bloomberg Invited to Give Commencement Address
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
The College has extended an invitation to Michael R. Bloomberg, the Mayor of the City of New York and billionaire founder of the financial information firm Bloomberg L.P., to speak at the commencement ceremony for the class of 2013, President S. Georgia Nugent confirmed Wednesday. Ryan Liegner, the president of Senior Class Council, said Bloomberg was the first choice of the Honorary Degree Committee, which submits a list of potential speakers to President Nugent and the Board of Trustees.
The Committee identified Bloomberg as their choice in January of this year, Nugent said in an email.
Last academic year, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Barry Schwartz, was told Bloomberg would be willing to speak. “Sometimes there are just opportunities, and you think ‘that’s a good opportunity, let’s go with it,’” said Nugent.
Bloomberg founded Innovative Market Systems in 1982 on the premise that traders and other employees of Wall Street firms needed information relevant to the market quickly and cohesively. The company was given its current name in 1987.
Three years later, Bloomberg created a news division within the company so that Bloomberg L.P. would not just deliver the news, but report it as well. He founded that division with Matthew Winkler ’77, who was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal at the time. Winkler is now a member of the Kenyon College and Kenyon Review Boards of Trustees.
Bloomberg News has over 2,000 employees and publishes more than 5,000 stories daily. And the Bloomberg Terminal — an array of monitors that provides access to the company’s data platform — has313,000 subscribers, according to a 2011 interview in Newsweek with the company’s CEO, Daniel L. Doctoroff.
It was on the heels of this success that Bloomberg first decided to run for mayor in 2001, using his sizable fortune — Forbes now estimates his net worth at $22 billion — to finance his campaign. In total, he spent $74 million towards defeating his Democratic opponent Mark Green, according to The New York Times.
When he entered City Hall, New York was still reeling, economically and emotionally, from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In the 10 years since Bloomberg took office, he has become a national political figure, speaking out for causes such as same-sex marriage, gun control and women’s initiatives. And in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, Bloomberg was floated as a potential contender.
His tenure in City Hall has been marked by major overhauls and bold reforms. In 2002, less than a year after being elected, he successfully transferred control of the New York City School System from the Board of Education to the Mayor’s Office. He has since worked to create smaller, more specialized schools within the system — doing away with large schools he claims were failing their students.
Bloomberg’s administration has also become known for its aggressive public health policy, which it claims combats an epidemic of obesity and critics allege infringes upon New Yorkers’ civil liberties. Since taking office, the Mayor has banned smoking in bars, restaurants and parks, and outlawed trans fats.
He is currently campaigning for a law that would limit the sizes of soft drinks available in city establishments. That plan is expected to be approved by the New York City Board of Health today, according to The New York Times.
Not all of the Mayor’s initiatives have been successful. In 2008, he proposed a congestion pricing scheme that would have charged a fee for driving in a high-traffic area of Manhattan. The plan was ultimately killed by state legislators.
In the past, Nugent has been hesitant to invite political figures to speak at commencement. “We certainly try to make clear that this isn’t a political platform in speaking to young people about the future,” Nugent said.
Despite Bloomberg’s political role, Nugent emphasized he is a good model for Kenyon students.
“What I admire about him is he’s been a person of courage. I don’t think anybody thought you could cut smoking out of New York bars, and he managed to do that,” Nugent said. “Going into public service and trying to do things that he believes are good for the public is great.”