A story in yesterday's Washington Post stated incorrectly that the daughter of former CIA director George Bush was a member of this year's graduating class of McLean High School. The daughter of one of Bush's top aides was in the graduating class.
The consensus this year among area high school officials is that Winston Churchill High School in Montgomery Country got the best graduation speaker: Bob Hope. There is also wide agreement that the big losers this spring were the schools that wound up with politicians, which most of them did.
Getting a graduation speaker is a fiercely competitive chore for local high schools, especially in the Washington area, where everyone claims to have connections with famous, sought after personalties.
"I doubt if anyone can top Bob Hope," said a spokesman for the exclusive St. Albans School for Boys, where Sen, Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) delivered the address to a graduating class that included his son.
Hope's appearance was due i large part to a telephone call to the comedian from Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) whose son graduated from Churchill. Hope and Kemp have known each other since Kemp played football for the Buffalo Bills.
Television newscasters, particularly David Schumacher, Jim Vance and Maureen Bunyon, are among the most sought after by students. Vance, for example, will have spoken at 10 graduations before June is over. He said he has had to turn down almost as many as he accepts.
Parkdale High School in Riverdale "got real lucky," said its principal, Dr. G. Allen Sager, and got civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
Politicians remain the biggest source of graduation speakers, but not necessarily by student choice.
Howard Morse, valedictorian at Winston Churchill, said his classmates indicated they "wanted anybody but a politician" to speak at their graduation.
"When you're down to the last two or three weeks (before graduation) and you don't have anybody, then you turn to somebody like (Maryland Senate President) Steny Hoyer, who's accesible," said Pamela Hanrahan, graduation sponsor at Friendly High School in Oxon Hill, where Jim Vance is speaking this year.
What seems to happen each year is that schools in wealthy areas, attended by children of prominent people, attract big-name personalities while others schools, particularly those in the outer limits of the metropolitan area, usually draw local people whose names may not be know outside that community.
In Loudoun County, Loudoun Valley High School is having an alumnus address its graduating class and a retired local educator will speak at Broad Run Hill School.
Loudoun's distance from Washington is an obstacle to getting people from the city to speak at graduations in that county, according to Edgar Hatrick, principal of Loudoun County High.
Hatrick recalled that when newscater Fred Thomas spoke at Broad Run when Hatrick was the assistant principal there, "We had to pick him up at the studio after his 6 p.m. broadcast, then make sure we got him back in time for the 11 o'clock news."
Often, in the more exclusive private and public schools, the graduation speakers are the well-known parents of members of the graduating class.
Former CIA director George Bush was the speaker for McLean High School this year, where his daughter was among the graduates. According to Bill Bartlett, a senior class adviser at McLean High, which consistently draws national figures, senior class members usually look to those students in the school with famous parents to help them find a graduation speaker.
At the private, all-girls madeira School in Fairfax County graduation speakers are also frequently parents of graduates. That's how the school was able to host former Attorney General Elliot Richardson in 1975. According to Shirley Beebe, director of public relations for the school, the girls usually can have their pick of prominent persons since the students get to know some of Washington's highest-placed officials as interns on Capitol Hill.
Parents also played a large role in getting a graduation speaker this far for Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, but not in quite the same way as at Madelra School. This year's speaker at Osbourn will be Inspector James Cotter of the FBI Academy.The school received help from fathers who are FBI agents in getting Cotter, according to Frank Seese, principal.
When Seese needed a speaker at the last minute in 1976, because Attorney General Andrew Miller had to cancel unexpectedly, Seese turned to his brother-in-law a State department employee, who arrangedfor a State Department speaker to come.