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Prince hands the mic over to Robertson
/ News Editor
Jeanne Swanner-Robertson, professional speaker, humorist and Burlington resident, will replace Prince Hamzah Bin Al Hussein of Jordan as commencement speaker this year.
Hussein canceled early last week. According to Dan Anderson, director of University Relations, he will not be able to speak at commencement “but would hope to visit campus at some point in the future and that he would do whatever is necessary to continue support of the King Hussein scholarship.”
Robertson said her speech would be about a strategy for success after graduation, not necessarily in business but in other aspects of life, too. As a professional speaker, Robertson gives speeches to kick-off meetings, conventions and banquets. Each year, she speaks at up to 100 conventions.
Though she also labels herself as a humorist, she stresses that there’s a difference between a humorist and a comedian. “The main goal of a comedian is to make laughs at any cost,” Robertson said. “Sometimes this could include offending others for the sake of one group laughing at it.”
Robertson said a humorist speaks in the corporate market. “Each piece of material you use leads to a point,” Robertson said. Usually, her speeches run about an hour, but her commencement speech will only be 10 minutes. “At first I was apprehensive, but now I am excited for the challenge.”
Last week, the senior class representatives met with Robertson to decide whether or not she would be a good fit as commencement speaker. “She will make people laugh, she will inspire and motivate students, and she has a sense of our Elon community as a member of the Board of Trustees and as someone who had a son graduate from Elon,” Vice President Darris Means said.
“I believe people get caught up in not having a speaker like Bill Cosby or George Bush, but when we graduate the attention should not be on the graduation speaker but on the seniors who have worked extremely hard for the past three, four, or five years to make it thus far.”
Robertson is a self-described avid Elon fan. She is an Elon trustee and attends Elon sporting events often. “I was there at the third overtime last year,” Robertson said, referring to the men’s basketball game against UNC-Greensboro. Because she knows some of the seniors, she will draw on events that have happened in the four years that they climbed through Elon.
Robertson became interested in professional speaking when she entered a beauty pageant sophomore year while she was attending Auburn University. Though it was her first pageant, she kept winning until she was named Miss North Carolina. At the Miss America pageant, she was named Miss Congeniality.
At 19, she was forced to take a year off from school in order to do public appearances as Miss Congeniality. From her experiences that year, she discovered that “instead of just cutting the ribbon people enjoy laughing.” After teaching and coaching basketball for nine years in Graham, she decided to start her own business as a professional speaker.
“It’s not just about speaking, its about marking myself,” Robertson said. “How do I market to Montana when I live in a small city?”
Robertson is a Burlington resident, but a nation-wide traveler. Most recently, she was recognized as 2003 Woman of Achievement by the Miss North Carolina Pageant and was also named 2001 North Carolinian of the year by the North Carolina Press Association.