The Evanstonian

Graduation needs a Wildkit, not Mayor Hagerty

Photo+courtesy+of+Evanston+Now.
Photo courtesy of Evanston Now.

Photo courtesy of Evanston Now.

Photo courtesy of Evanston Now.

Editorial

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Ahead of the June 3 graduation, Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty has been con- firmed by administration as the ceremony’s commencement speaker. Though a city official, Hagerty’s lack of affiliation with ETHS, inexperience in Evanston and disconnect with the greater Evanston community make him a poor choice to send off the newest class of Wildkit graduates.

ETHS graduation ceremonies have traditionally seen ETHS alumni of varying notoriety take the stage and speak about the Evanston community, the importance of an ETHS education and the realities of post-high school life. Recent speakers include best-selling author David Epstein, actor Zach Gilford and award-winning ETHS teacher and administrator Denise Martin. The remarks of these figures have all addressed one central question: what does it mean to be a Wildkit?

To answer this question, graduation speakers must come from the community or the school and carry with them a unique understanding of life in the halls of ETHS, an ability to speak to students from the perspective of students. Mayor Hagerty is born and raised in Massachusetts, educated in New York, and experienced in private business. He is not a former Evanston youth, student or faculty member. He is not a parent in District 65, despite the fact that he has school-aged children. He lacks the perspective needed to fully or accurately comment on the lives of our 800+ graduates. He cannot tell us what it means to be a Wildkit because, to put it frankly, he has never been one.

The decision is also questionable given Hagerty’s standing with the Evanston community. In last year’s elections, Hagerty and second place finisher Mark Tendam were separated by just over 100 votes, despite massive campaign spending from Hagerty. Hagerty is by no means popular throughout the city, and his short tenure as Mayor — marked by controversy over urban development, wage increases, and private enterprise within the city — has failed to establish a meaningful connection with ETHS and does not warrant his invitation to address a mass of public school students, most of whom are untouched by his private-sector work and many of whom are opposed to his early policies as mayor.

The selection of Hagerty becomes even more disagreeable when the process leading to the choice is examined. According to Student Representative Emma Stein, neither the Evanston Student Union nor the District School Board were consulted on the matter. Rather, the decision was left to non-elected administrative officials. This lack of reliance on student or community voice showcases a great flaw within the whole selection process. The Administration could have considered public opinion; they instead — behind seemingly closed doors — opted for the easy choice, a local face with already established ties to school leadership (and leadership alone).

For the Class of 2018 to get the most out of their final moments as Wildkits, it is imperative that they are spoken to from an Evanstonian perspective, from one that can specifically relate to their experiences within the community. Hagerty, though a mayor with legitimate concern for the well-being of Evanston, cannot lend such a perspective. The administration has failed ETHS seniors in neglecting their needs and ignoring their preferences when selecting a speaker.

We at the Evanstonian believe that the senior class deserves recognition from its administration and a reasonable commencement speaker, one that’s able to touch on the students’ own community and high school experiences; Steve Hagerty is not such a speaker. School leadership could have and should have chosen from student-favored alumni such as 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Megan Twohey, 2017 Emmy Winner Lena Waithe or nationally recognized teacher and recent retiree Rodney Lowe for the role, though it unfortunately seems too late to change the speaking arrangements. But both replacing the traditional commencement speech with additional remarks from a current staff member or having no address at all would be favorable to hearing an outsider comment on his misguided perception of the community.

The administration has chosen a figure with little connection to Evanston or to ETHS and rendered the class of 2018 voiceless in regards to their own graduation. Graduates and family members will be presented on June 2 with an impersonal, likely inaccurate perspective on their own lives; they have every right to be disappointed.

7 Comments

7 Responses to “Graduation needs a Wildkit, not Mayor Hagerty”

  1. Anita Duck on May 25th, 2018 3:01 am

    Steve Hagerty is a corporate hack who has no legacy in Evanston. He is out for himself and his rich white friends. It’s a disgrace that on the most important day of these youngsters lives this hack man is allowed this platform. He does not derserve such an honor.

    [Reply]

  2. Sheila Loop on May 25th, 2018 11:25 am

    I agree 10000% with this well-written piece. It was really poor judgment to make a decision like this unilaterally and it’s put a cloud over what should be a really great day to look forward to.

    [Reply]

  3. Juliet Garrard on May 26th, 2018 5:41 pm

    Nothing can detract from the future of these students, nor from the recognition they deserve from the various obstacles they have overcome to get to this point.

    Perhaps Hagerty will learn something from them, rather than they from him. Perhaps he will see how anyone can prosper, given the opportunity, and how everyone benefits when everyone gets the opportunity to learn together, rather than in a segregated enclave of the wealthy. Perhaps he will see how these young people have grown and are better, stronger, more open-minded, and more forward-thinking people for their public school experience. Perhaps he might even feel that his children should be given the same opportunity.

    I agree that he is not someone who should speak for these students or in any way be allowed to use them as a stepping-stone for his political ambitions. The choice is disappointing. Perhaps the students will make their opinions known.

    [Reply]

  4. Dave Camacho on May 27th, 2018 11:19 am

    While I don’t have the degree of professional success that Mayor Hagerty has achieved perhaps I should nominate myself as the 2018 commencement speaker. I am a product of Evanston schools from Kindergarten to the ETHS Class of 87 and have lived in the Boston area for the last 20 + years. Not a week goes by where I’m not thankful the for the challenging and supportive educational experience I had with people of all colors and driven by dedicated teachers. I’m sure that while the technology behind the teaching has improved the basic drive of the students to succeed and give back to their community is the same and should be applauded. Best of luck to the Class of 2018!

    [Reply]

  5. Monique Petan on May 27th, 2018 8:19 pm

    When Evanstonians don’t vote in their own best interest .
    Show up and vote!

    [Reply]

  6. L Keenan on May 30th, 2018 11:01 am

    I’ve never been more proud of a student newspaper! Bravo. On the issue of Harley Clarke and the Mayor, I am sharing an email sent to Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens followers this morning.

    The stakes have never been higher.

    Last night at City Council, a small group of wealthy neighbors presented a paid-for proposal for demolition of Harley Clarke. That’s right, a handful of neighbors would rather pay to destroy a local landmark than protect public access to a city treasure. After their proposal, Ald. Rainey (8th Ward) proposed the Council consider demolition at the June 18th meeting

    Tell City Council to choose democracy over demolition and email them today by clicking here.

    If this small group of wealthy neighbors gets their way, Harley Clarke will be destroyed and Evanstonians from across the city will be denied their gateway to the Great Lakes.

    Here’s how to prevent demolition:
    Email City Council and the Mayor by clicking here.
    Mark your calendar today and make plans to attend the City Council Meeting on June 18 at 7pm – We need everyone to come out to support preservation of Harley Clarke and Evanston Lakehouse’s Plans to restore and repurpose the building. Bring your partner, spouse, kids, friends, parents, neighbors.
    Share this email with your friends and neighbors and share our updates via email and Facebook with your networks (NextDoor, etc.).
    Let us know if you’d like a yard sign by replying to this email with your address.
    Make a donation today by clicking here. $100 will provide enough resources to send ten volunteers to knock on 1,000 doors. $1,000 will do even more. And $1 million might just end the discussion once and for all.
    If you want to get more involved and help in another way, please email us.

    Thank you for your continued support,
    ELHG Board & Advisory Board

    [Reply]

  7. Kiya Lewis on May 30th, 2018 2:16 pm

    I was born and raised in Evanston and I am actually shocked by this article and the comments that follow. I understand everyone has a right to their opinion, but when have “Evanstonians” shown such little class? Once you choose to settle your life in a city/town you become apart of that community.

    I’ve heard several people mention how they weren’t welcomed when they’ve moved to Evanston and now I see why. It bother’s me that some feel you have to come through way of a hospital or attend one of the schools to be considered one of us, let alone respected.

    This way of thinking gives Evanston a bad look.

    Have an opinion, choose who you want to speak, but understand Evanston is not a place just for those “born here.

    Let’s do better in representing why this is great place to live.

    [Reply]

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Graduation needs a Wildkit, not Mayor Hagerty