For graduation, two senior speakers better than one

By Emma WestRasmus

Emily Lesnick ’11 and Matt Kazinka ’11 have been chosen as the senior speakers for the 2011 commencement. Kazinka and Lesnick emerged out of a field of ten nominees, and in a break with the traditional format of the senior speech, will deliver a joint address at the May 14 ceremony.The speech, which revolves around the central theme of friendship, reflects on the changing nature of friendships over four years at Macalester. Lesnick and Kazinka met during MacWard Bound, a pre-orientation camping trip before their first year even began, and became close friends immediately. Despite their initial bond, the two drifted apart once the semester began and though they stayed friendly, they weren’t part of each others’ close circles for the next four years. “It’s about our friendship,” Lesnick said. “Mac has been a point on all of our personal maps. We’ve diverged and converged at different places, but we’re all connected.” “We created something that is about how we’re about to head out, but are leaning back on relationships,” Kazinka added. “We’ve rooted it in the story of our friendship.” The joint speech concept deviates from the traditional one-speaker format of past commencements. Lesnick came up with the idea after seeing Kazinka’s name in the list of nominees and thought the unique approach would offer a fresh perspective on concluding reflections of college. “It gives us the opportunity to talk about friendships at Mac in a personal way that seems a lot more real,” Lesnick said. However, the idea of a joint speech was initially met with skepticism from the selection committee. “Initially, I was hesitant and cautious about the idea,” said committee member and Political Science professor Adrienne Christiansen. “Emily and Matt had the “burden of proof” so to speak. They had to demonstrate that there was a compelling reason why two speakers were better than one. That is, the mere “novelty” of two speakers giving one speech is a wholly insufficient reason to set tradition aside and to change the format. They had to prove to me that the message or that the theme of the speech, itself, required two speakers in order to be done properly.” Director of Academic Programs and committee member Ann Minnick echoed Christiansen’s initial doubt about the feasibility of the new speech format. “Emily and Matt had a high threshold to meet,” Minnick said. Despite the committee’s preliminary doubts, Christiansen and other committee members were ultimately won over by Lesnick and Kazinka’s creative, persuasive speech. “It was terrific and interesting,” Christiansen said, lauding the Kazinka and Lesnick’s “dynamic and engaging” delivery to the committee. “The draft version of the speech they orally delivered as finalists convinced me to set aside my initial hesitation and they won my support. I think that this speech will be successful owing to the unique fusion of theme, argument, and format.” “They persuaded us that a joint speech was possible,” Minnick said. Kazinka, an Environmental Studies major with an Urban Studies concentration, from Iowa City, Iowa, is involved with sustainability on campus in Facilities and with MacCARES, and plays trombone in the Jazz Band. Lesnick, from Yonkers, New York, is an American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies double major, and is a part of Fresh Concepts improv group, Sirens a capella, and the Bonner Scholars program. Lesnick and Kazinka said that they are also making their speech available to students prior to commencement upon request so that students can translate the speech for non-English speaking family and friends planning to attend the ceremony.