Penn’s Commencement Speaker Is UN Ambassador Samantha Power
Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the U.N., will serve as Penn’s commencement speaker this year. She’s the first woman to be the university’s commencement speaker since 2006, when Jodie Foster spoke. Power will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from Penn.
Power began her career as a journalist, covering the Balkan wars. She got her J.D. from Harvard in 1999 and won a non-fiction Pulitzer Prize for A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. She has been a policy advisor to Barack Obama since he was in the Senate and was a supporter of his presidential campaign. She’s held several jobs in his presidential administration, including on the National Security Council and the Atrocities Prevention Board.
“As a national and global leader, inspiring scholar and teacher, and courageous champion of human rights, Ambassador Power has had far-ranging impact here at home and abroad. Her extraordinary record of achievement on issues including LGBT and women’s rights, the promotion of religious freedom, and the protection of religious minorities is a shining example of leadership,” Penn president Amy Gutman said in a statement.
Even conservatives can find something to like in an Obama ally, perhaps: Power had to resign from Obama’s 2008 campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a “monster.” When she was nominated to the position of UN ambassador, Power was praised by both parties.
Power’s husband, Cass Sunstein, will also get an honorary Doctor of Laws; the two met while working on the Obama campaign. Penn Med professor Arthur K. Asbury, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, actress Rita Moreno, PHILADANCO founder Joan Myers Brown and astronaut Ellen Ochoa will also receive honorary degrees.
Penn’s commencement speaker last year was Penn grad John Legend. This year is quite a departure. But let’s not forget that Foster, the last woman to be commencement speaker, quoted Eminem during her commencement speech.
The Daily Pennsylvanian flagged two other ambassadors to the UN who served as speakers at Penn’s commencement: John Foster Dulles in 1949 and Henry Cabot Lodge in 1956. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was the commencement speaker in 2005. (Apparently Penn likes to follow music with politics: U2 frontman Bono was the speaker in 2004.)
“The Penn family is thrilled to have such an exceptional class of honorees and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power as our Commencement speaker,” Penn trustee Andrea Mitchell, chair of the committee that selects honorary degrees, said in a release. “This year’s honorees, through their courage, scholarship and public service, exemplify the very highest levels of achievement. They stand as brilliant examples of inspiration for our graduates and for all of us in the University community.”
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