clinton3_0524.JPGAssociated Press

Former president Bill Clinton speaks at a recent news conference in New York. He will make his second visit to Galesburg on June 2.

Clinton's visit to Knox College to be brief

Large crowd expected for June 2 commencement

Thursday, May 24, 2007

GALESBURG - Almost 12 1/2 years after visiting Galesburg while in office, former President Bill Clinton will return June 2 to deliver this year's commencement address at Knox College.

Clinton, who is expected to speak at about 10:30 a.m. on the south lawn of Old Main, also will receive one of three honorary degrees to be presented this year. Those in attendance for the address will not be allowed to move around the south lawn area during the ceremony.

Commencement will begin at 10 a.m. with the processional, followed by a welcome, a selection by the Knox College choir and the presentation of honorary degrees to Douglas Wilson, Janet McKinley and Clinton.

Following Clinton's address, the faculty award will be presented, there will be remarks by a representative of the senior class, bachelor's degrees will be awarded, Knox College President Roger Taylor will deliver a speech and the Knox Hymn will be sung. The ceremony, expected to last until about noon, will conclude with closing remarks and the recessional.

Karrie Heartlein, Knox College's director of public relations, said Clinton has an out-of-state engagement to attend after his stop in Galesburg.

"Our indications are he is going to be here only for a very short time," Heartlein said, "only for the commencement ceremony."

Clinton was in Galesburg Jan. 10, 1995, shortly after a disastrous mid-term election for Democrats that resulted in Congressman Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. During a stop at Carl Sandburg College, Clinton unveiled his Middle Class Bill of Rights, thought by some to be the beginning of his successful effort to turn aside the Republican tide and eventually win a second term in 1998.

This marks the third year in a row Knox has managed to land a high-profile commencement speaker. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama, himself now a candidate for the presidency, delivered the commencement address, while last year Comedy Central's political satirist Stephen Colbert was the man of the hour.

Heartlein said the crowds have steadily increased. The college has estimates of attendance for 2005 and 2006, because tickets were not needed.

"It has averaged in the past around 4,000," Heartlein said of commencement attendance. "Of course, last year we might have gotten close to 4,500, but that is kind of a guess."

Heartlein said about 4,500 tickets were issued to students, family, faculty, staff and trustees this year. Everyone with tickets will have a chair.

"But after that it's all guesswork," she said of the possible crowd size.

"We actually had to increase the size of the platform," she said. "A good number of our faculty (typically) leave just shortly after their grades are turned in for summer trips, for research, many go to conferences; their summers are packed."

Many of those faculty members and trustees will attend this year's commencement.

"It's going to be a wonderful program for our graduates, an incredible memory for them," Heartlein said. "This is not political. We have someone who is an amazing speaker, has done some amazing humanitarian acts. That's the person our students want to hear."

Diane Bruening, executive director of the Galesburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed it will be a busy day.

"We know for a fact that all the hotel rooms have been sold out since February," Bruening said. "The moment word got out that Bill Clinton was coming, they sold out. We're sending people to the Quad Cities, Peoria and Monmouth."

Heartlein agreed.

"I don't think there are any accommodations within 30 miles of Galesburg," she said. "We have been referring people to the Quad Cities and Peoria for some time now."

If You Go

Knox College Commencement 2007

Q. Are tickets needed for ceremony?

A. Limited reserve seating is available by ticket only. All graduating seniors, faculty and staff, and guests must have tickets. Alumni and members of the general public without tickets are welcome to attend commencement. However, they are encouraged to bring their own seating, such as lawn chairs or blankets.

Q. Where will the ceremony be held in case of rain?

A. Ceremony will be held on the south lawn of Old Main, rain or shine. Commencement will be moved to T. Fleming Fieldhouse only in the case of lightning or threat of lightning.

- Honorary degrees: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Janet McKinley, chairwoman of Oxfam America; and Lincoln scholar Douglas Wilson.

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