Bernanke to be 2009 BC Law Commencement Speaker
NEWTON, MA — Federal Reserve System Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has accepted Boston College Law School’s invitation to speak at the 2009 Law School Commencement, to be held on May 22, 2009.
While no formal announcement has yet been made by Boston College Law School, Eagleionline.com has confirmed the commencement speaker’s identity after weeks of speculation.
“The timeliness for Chairman Bernanke is uncanny,” said Boston College Law School alumnus Dan Roth ‘04, echoing the positive sentiments of much of the greater Boston College Law School community of students, faculty and alumni.
Bernanke has had a long and distinguished career as an academic economist, unlike his two immediate predecessors at the Fed, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker, who had distinguished careers on Wall Street as a bond trader and banker at Chase Manhattan, respectively. Before Bernanke was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve, he served as chairman of the Economics Department at Princeton University. At Princeton, Bernanke, it is worth noting, was colleagues with Alan Blinder, a former Vice-Chairman of the Fed and recent critic of free trade, and Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, 2008 Nobel Prize winner, and fierce opponent of current U.S. economic policy. Bernanke was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Fed from 2002 to 2005.
Bernanke’s research as a professor at Princeton has allowed him to bring a unique skill set to the current financial crisis. As a New York Times profile stated in September 2008, Bernanke is “a longtime student of the Great Depression.” It is his familiarity with that crisis that led him to act swiftly in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers and AIG failures, worrying that failure to do so would prolong and deepen the current catastrophe.
The early reaction to the announcement focuses on the timeliness of having the Federal Reserve Chairman speak this year, with a struggling U.S. and global economy as the backdrop. Law student Dan Wright ‘10, past President of the Boston College Law School Business and Law Society, said that “it would be difficult to pick a more interesting speaker given the current state of the economy. I really look forward to hearing his thoughts on the recession and the business outlook for the next few years.”
Amy Kaufman ‘10 agreed, saying, “I think that most students would agree with me that Dr. Bernanke is a particularly appropriate choice for this year’s commencement address in light of the current economic times.”
Bernanke has seemed a particularly appropriate choice to many, yet praise for the speaker is not limited to his work as the Fed Chairman.
“Not only will he attract interest from the students due to his particularly high profile position, but also because he has the potential to guide and inspire students who are about to enter the real world,” said Kaufman.
Roth agreed, commenting that “Chairman Bernanke is a distinguished academic and policymaker who hopefully will have something to say to this year’s graduates about how the financial crisis has brought into sharp focus the connection between the corporate world, government, and the well-being of the general public around the globe.”
Though Bernanke is an accomplished economist, his tenure at the Fed has not been without controversy and criticism. In mid-2007, as the U.S. housing market began to collapse and problems piled up at Bear Stearns, stock market guru Jim Cramer infamously berated the Fed and Bernanke, demanding that the Fed open the discount window [the discount rate at which banks borrow money from the Federal Reserve to shore up liquidity], and yelling “They know nothing!” on Erin Burnett’s “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC. Bernanke was also blamed for the decline in the stock market shortly after he became Fed Chairman, after CNBC reporter Maria Bartoromo repeated comments that he made to her at what he thought was an off-the-record dinner.
While many students and faculty expressed reservations last year about the selection of then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey as speaker, Chairman Bernanke seems highly defensible, at worst.Chairman Bernanke “does not appear to represent a position that violates international and domestic criminal law and moral norms, and he certainly will have some timely perceptions to share,” said Professor Zygmunt Plater.
With the commencement speaker’s identity going unconfirmed until now, the selection process has lacked transparency, and the extent to which the process has changed is unclear.Admitting he is on sabbatical this year, Plater noted, “I assume that the selection was made as promised in consultation with student leadership of the graduating class for whom he is the Commencement speaker, with some faculty input.”While some may wish that the process was more transparent this year than last, with the selection of Chairman Bernanke, it seems many find it hard to argue with the results.
Despite Dr. Bernanke’s knowledge of the Great Depression and his tireless effort in handling the current crisis, it is rumored that President Obama will not re-appoint Bernanke to a second term in 2010, instead favoring White House economic chief and former Harvard president Larry Summers for the position.
Continue checking Eagleionline.com for the latest on Chairman Bernanke’s visit to BC Law. You can contact Eagleionline, anonymously or non-anonymously, using the Contact tab, above. Adam Brenner, Milan Dalal, Ryan Morrison and Jesse Stellato contributed to this article.