Brown is unique among Ivy League institutions in featuring graduating seniors as Commencement speakers. Senior Orators are nominated by Brown seniors and faculty. Criteria include eloquence and wit, scholarship and breadth of study, activity within the University community, and an interest in public speaking. Only students who will have completed their degree requirements in May are eligible. The Commencement Speakers Committee, made up of five students, four faculty members, and two deans, reviews nominations, convenes semi-finalist presentations, and selects the Orators.
There is no single, ideal topic for a successful oration. Orations often emerge from students' own experiences, but they transcend the personal and speak to the class as a whole. Because Commencement is attended by graduates' families, alumni, and other friends of the University, Orators choose themes that resonate with this large and varied audience.