Jerry Springer preaches ethics to law school graduates

May 16, 2008 8:17:02 PM PDT
No one has to tell talk show host Jerry Springer that he's a controversial choice as commencement speaker. Or that his decision to discuss workplace ethics in front of Northwestern University School of Law students might raise a few eyebrows. The 1968 alumnus acknowledged opposition to his appearance before quoting Winston Churchill, his mother and the wisdom of Socrates in his approximately 15-minute speech Friday.

"To the students who invited me, thank you. I am honored. To the students who object to my presence, well, you've got a point. I too would've chosen someone else," Springer said in a copy of the speech sent to The Associated Press. "I am an imperfect being, (on my talk show more colorful language might be employed), and I hardly feel qualified to tell you what to do with your lives."

While Springer is a former Cincinnati mayor and news anchor, he's better known now for his daytime Chicago-based television show, which features bleeped-out obscenities and fights where security guards pull apart guests.

The choice of speaker initially generated student petitions and blogs claiming Springer was an unsuitable candidate to speak to graduates. But Northwestern administrators, including law school dean David Van Zandt, defended the choice, highlighting Springer's history in public office and the news industry.

Springer has spoken at more than 15 universities in the past few months.

"Let's assume that your prime discomfort with me is based on the ethics of what I do for a living," Springer said in the speech. "Well, that's a fair question -- worthy of serious response -- because on this your graduation day, I can tell you with some confidence that you too will likely deal with these same ethical considerations, no matter what path your career takes."

Springer, who was a Cincinnati councilman in the 1970s and resigned in 1974 after admitting he wrote personal checks to prostitutes, reflected on his time at Northwestern and talked about his work in journalism.

"Think of the ethical issues you will have to deal with. Will you work for a corporate client who is perhaps is polluting?" he said in the speech.

"What I am saying, is that whatever profession you choose, whatever it is you plan to do with this law school diploma, the ethical questions will never stop."


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