Members of the campus community expressed excitement in anticipation of UC Berkeley alumnus and three-time Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian’s 2018 winter commencement speech, set to take place Dec. 15.
Adrian, an eight-time Olympic medalist, was announced as the commencement speaker Monday. Adrian swims the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and relay freestyle for the U.S. Olympic swim team. According to a Berkeley News press release, Adrian is preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and trains full-time with the Cal swim team.
“I think it’s great,” said campus senior Javier Bravo about the announcement. “He’s a successful guy from Berkeley, and this shows that we have a pretty strong community that gives back to Cal.”
Campus junior Saprina Howard said she believes Adrian represents the accomplishments UC Berkeley students can achieve after graduating. Howard said speakers like Adrian “set the tone” and advise students on how to apply their experiences at UC Berkeley to the real world.
“I think the biggest thing is an inspiration,” said campus junior Sam Moore. “Regardless if you’re an athlete or not, it’s cool for people who have done so well in their passion to come back to Cal and encourage students.”
Senior class president Jesse Gil said in an email that Adrian was chosen because he has shown dedication and “embodies the Spirit of California.” Gil added that the student council is excited to hear what Adrian has to say to the graduating class and hopes that with Adrian’s speech, the message of community service shines through.
Cal men’s swimming head coach David Durden echoed these sentiments, stating that Adrian reflects positively on UC Berkeley as a student, athlete and overall person.
“It’s great for him, and it says a lot about who he is as a person,” Durden said. “To be recognized as a person, to be able to give a speech of this magnitude — it’s an awesome and tremendous honor.”
Durden said that throughout the approximately 10 seasons he has coached Adrian, Adrian has proven to be a thoughtful person and an eloquent speaker — something that he said will be of “great value” to students. Durden mentioned that the commencement speech will be an opportunity for students to hear from someone who has been in their shoes and become successful after graduating from UC Berkeley.
Durden added that the Olympic swimmer speaks to UC Berkeley students’ “adaptability” when it comes to finding success after graduating, even if they stray away from their original career path.
Referring to Adrian’s failure to acquire a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Durden said Adrian has faced setbacks in his swimming career along with his many successes.
“It’s nice to hear from someone who has had success, failure, disappointment, but also reached the pinnacle of what he does,” Durden said. “It’s really important to hear that perspective before graduating.”