Have you ever seen 200 bumblebees boo a referee into submission? We have. It was at a Cluster 3 dinner in the beginning of our first year. Amid the typically low-energy 90 second talks, one speaker stood out. Her name was Jane. She spoke with a natural charisma reminiscent of Cicero – if Cicero had been one of the Beatles.
When the poor student tasked with keeping people to 90 seconds informed her that her time was up, she asked the audience innocently, “oh, do you want me to stop?” 200 hundred hungry MBAs decided they could wait for their meals and loudly heckled the timekeeper into acquiescence. Jane proceeded to win the audience over with a magnetic ending.
As graduation approaches, we ask ourselves: what do we want from a speech? Too often graduation speakers fail. Mediocrities try to compensate for their poor speaking skills by spouting non-threatening clichés: Did you know that your graduation is not the end, but the beginning? Have you ever heard that it’s important to believe in yourself? Follow your passion! Dare to live your dream, never settle, and remember that you are the future! Such mundane nonsense makes us ill and thirsty for a drink.
Jane Xuejing Li is not burdened with such oratorical shortcomings. She is charming where other are drab; interesting where others are dull. She is as original as any character in Adam Grant’s book without possessing the narcissism that usually accompanies being one-of-a-kind.
The fact that she is clearly the student body’s best speaker is made all the more impressive given her background. The English language was not something she was comfortable with when she came to Philly, but she put herself in uncomfortable positions, and after many hours of practice she developed a facility with the English language that will grab your attention, make you laugh, and whip you into a frenzy.
Simply put: when Jane speaks, the audience listens.
Moreover, Jane represents Wharton at its best. She’s undeniably global; coming from Asia, spending a semester in Europe, and working in the Middle East after graduation. Oh, and her French fiancé, a fellow Wharton MBA, recently proposed to her at Versailles.
Moreover, her career exemplifies our core value of the stretch experience. She was one of the first women to work as a marketing executive in China, and not only was she wildly successful on each of her business projects, but she kept up with boys during the after-hours hard-drinking culture. She has lived “work hard play hard” in ways you will have to hear from her to believe.
Everyone who has ever had a class with Jane notes her sharp acumen and even sharper wit. She is so obviously the choice for speaker the Wharton Journal Senior Editors Emily Chau and Nick Bartz have pledged to refuse to graduate if she is not the speaker. [Ed. note: This is the first we are hearing of this] As transitioning military vets, we cannot go that far – but we can assure the selection committee that, with Jane at the podium, we are confident that the class of 2016 will still remember her speech at our 25th year reunion. With this in mind, we wholeheartedly and emphatically endorse Jane for student graduation speaker.