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Ted Koppel to give commencement address
Ted Koppel, chief interviewer and managing editor of ABC's "Nightline," will give this year's commencement address on Sunday, June 14. This is the second time Koppel, a Stanford alumbys, will address graduating students at the university.
"We're excited about getting Mr. Koppel," said Clinton Starghill, one of the four senior class presidents who made the choice. "He's a dynamic speaker whom we've grown up watching for years, and he's well-respected in his field." Starghill added that unlike other speakers, such as Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who addressed last year's graduates, Koppel will offer a more detached view of the American landscape. "A lot of recent speakers have been associated with the political process. He brings a little different flavor," Starghill said.
President Gerhard Casper said that Koppel "unites the desire of students to have a nationally known individual, my desire to have a speaker with Stanford ties, and the desire of us all to have a speaker of both substance and style."
As the commencement speaker in 1986, Koppel warned graduates that America was becoming a "nation of electronic voyeurs, whose capacity for dialogue is a fading memory, occasionally jolted into reflective life by a one-liner." He described television as "the shepherd constantly checking to see which way the sheep are headed; and then racing to overtake the flock so that he can be perceived as its leader. And whatever happens outside or beyond the scrutiny of television simply does not exist," Koppel said.
Asked how things might have changed since his speech 12 years ago, Koppel said, "I think the fundamental things are still the same. Every generation sees its own triumphs and tragedies and disasters as somehow unique and each generation is wrong." He pointed to events in Rwanda, developments in parts of the former Soviet Union, and economic crises in Africa and Asia as the more recent tragedies and disasters.
Born in 1940 in Lancaster, England, Koppel moved with his family to New York when he was 13. After attending English boarding schools, he earned a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University and later a master's degree in communication from Stanford in 1962. Koppel joined ABC in 1963 at the age of 23. He covered Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968. He was the network's diplomatic correspondent while Henry Kissinger was secretary of state and covered the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When the hostage crisis erupted in Iran in 1979, Koppel became the anchor of "The Iran Crisis: Americans Held Hostage." That show was renamed "Nightline" in 1980.
Koppel and his wife, Grace Anne Dorney, also a Stanford alumna, have four children and live in Potomac, Md. He said he looks forward to visiting the Farm. "My wife and I met at Stanford almost 38 years ago and it's always a source of great pleasure and joy for us to come back and walk across the campus together," he said.
Shannon Waggoner, another president of the class of 1998, said that Koppel's experience should make for an interesting talk. "I think he represents a myriad of interests in terms of what he has been exposed to throughout his career." That Koppel was the graduation speaker in 1986 matters little, she said. "That was a while ago. I think that will help him, not hurt him at all. Round two can only get better," Waggoner said.
By Elaine Ray