After Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was announced as this year’s commencement speaker, students expressed mixed feelings about the decision.While some fawn over the politician, others have expressed discomfort with his presence at NYU and have started to plan a demonstration in response.
Known for his charming good looks, Trudeau has gathered an impressive fan base since taking office in 2015. While many students can hardly wait to hear the smooth-talking prime minister deliver this year’s commencement speech, others refuse to be beguiled by his nice hair and sparkling eyes.
This will be Trudeau’s second time coming to NYU. In April 2016, he led a discussion on topics regarding youth activism and climate change. Trudeau follows a slew of prominent figures to deliver commencement speeches at NYU: including Hillary Clinton, Alec Baldwin, Bill Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor.
One of the main concerns from students is that Trudeau was only picked as commencement speaker because of his popularity in the media.
“NYU is likening him to the many celebrity speakers of the past rather than treating him as the leader of one of the largest countries in the world,” SPS first-year Duncan Lemieux from Ottawa said. “I think that’s especially true in light of some of our most recent commencement speakers — Pharrell Williams, Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro. I just feel like they’re treating him as a commodity and it kind of devalues his stature.”
Lemieux isn’t the only Canadian who’s upset about Trudeau’s coming — CAS junior Gabe Hoffman had a similar opinion.
“I think NYU should set better role models for their students than someone that was a gym teacher and trust fund baby who won a populist vote on legalizing weed and good looks,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for any prime minister while in office to be coming because of relevancy issues.”
Hoffman also thinks Trudeau should have more important things to do than speaking to college students.
“He should be spending time running the government instead of speaking at NYU for the second time,” Hoffman said. “I feel like if Obama went to speak at McGill’s graduation while he was in office, there would be an uproar.”
These oppositions to Trudeau are not exclusive to Canadians at NYU. Many students criticize the prime minister for being shallow and a fake feminist. Since taking office, Trudeau has been attacked for sidelining the rights of women, especially First Nations women.
Steinhardt senior Hailey Nuthals, a former editor for WSN, refuses to condone the injustices Trudeau has committed. She plans to hold a demonstration during graduation to show her dissatisfaction.
“To invite Trudeau the same year NYU concedes to demands to build a Native American Studies program is a slap in the face,” Nuthals said. “He’s shown a lack of ability to listen to the Canadian First Nations people about their needs, and has also perpetuated policies and signed off on legislation to sell arms to Saudi Arabia for use in their attacks against Yemen.”
Although Nuthals is not comfortable with Trudeau being the commencement speaker, she refuses to skip graduation, a celebration of student achievements she has looked forward to for years.
“I don’t think it’s fair to ask us to give up that moment of celebration and to ask our families to do so,” Nuthals said. “I would rather do something that Justin Trudeau has to look at and watch the entire time he’s speaking, and something that will be easily seen and photographed from around the stadium without disrupting the event.”
While she is currently in the process of planning this demonstration and gathering support, Nuthals’ efforts might be met by confusion from students who are excited to hear from a prominent leader.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s a very socially and environmentally conscious guy,” Steinhardt sophomore Caroline Welch said. “He’s a world leader. I think a significant politician giving your school commencement address is always something cool.”
Even though opinions are mixed, Trudeau will absolutely still have starstruck fans in the crowd — both at the ceremony and in the dorms, watching the livestream.
“Is he even real?” CAS sophomore Kalkidan Tadese said. “He’s so attractive. His hair is luxurious.”
Despite the differing opinions surrounding Trudeau’s visit, there’s one thing that every student has been asking: doesn’t Trudeau have better things to do?
“I’m surprised that he has time for this,” GLS sophomore Riya Patil said. “Isn’t he busy?”
Regardless of how Trudeau spends his time, his journey in politics will shape an interesting speech for graduating students, even if it’s not relevant to many of them.
“NYU should invite someone more relevant in terms of after-graduation development, someone more grounded in a particular field other than politics and getting reelected,” CAS sophomore Ouwen Jiang said. “But a prime minister can offer some good advice too, and for those who are interested in politics and public policy and you know world geopolitics, it’s a good opportunity to hear him talking.”
Disclaimer: Hailey Nuthals is a former Editor-in-Chief of Washington Square News.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email Jiayun Yang and Natalie Chinn at [email protected]