The slate of 2019 Ivy League commencement speakers has been announced.
Students praised the University's choice of human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson as Penn's 2019 commencement speaker, citing his background in social justice but lack of strong political leanings. Stevenson is noted for his prison reform advocacy and has won a United States Supreme Court Case barring mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences for children 17 and younger.
“To choose someone who is such a social justice activist and has done so much for marginalized people, for the poor, for people of color, and for children of color, it’s a powerful statement,” Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President and fourth-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Haley Pilgrim told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel was announced in December as Harvard University's commencement speaker this year, the Harvard Crimson reported. She will be the fourth German chancellor to speak at a Harvard commencement ceremony.
While Merkel announced that she will not seek a fifth term as chancellor in 2021, she has been called the “de facto leader of Europe” and is the longest-serving government head in the European Union, The Boston Globe reported.
At Columbia University, the university president traditionally speaks at the University Commencement ceremony. However, the four undergraduate schools — Columbia College, Barnard College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies — invite individual speakers to their school-specific commencement ceremonies.
Viola Davis will be the keynote speaker at Barnard's 2019 commencement ceremony, the Columbia Spectator reported. She has starred in the television show “How to Get Away with Murder,” which takes place on a campus loosely based on Penn's, and several notable films, including “Fences," for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
She is also the first black actress to have won the "triple crown of acting": an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award in acting.
Columbia's other three undergraduate schools have not yet announced their individual speakers.
Bill Nye will speak at Cornell University’s Senior Convocation this year, the Cornell Chronicle reported. Popularly known as "Bill Nye the Science Guy," Nye is a science educator, engineer, and comedian. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell in 1977 and served as a visiting professor there from 2001 to 2005.
Yo-Yo Ma, a world-renowned cellist, will speak at Dartmouth University's commencement on June 9, The Dartmouth reported. Ma has released more than 90 albums and has won 19 Grammy awards. He also served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and was on former President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2009.
Brown University named 2001 graduate and acclaimed actor, writer, and director John Krasinski as its speaker for the school's 2019 Baccalaureate Service, which will take place the day before commencement. The honor of speaking at the commencement ceremony has long been reserved for two members of the graduating class, who have not been announced.
Like Columbia, Princeton University reserves the role of commencement speaker for the university president. Christopher Eisgruber, who has served as Princeton’s President since 2013, will deliver the address.
However, Princeton presents a keynote speaker each year on the university's Class Day, which takes place the day before graduation. The Daily Princetonian reported that this year's speaker will be Ellie Kemper, an actress who currently stars on the Emmy-nominated "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and has held roles in "The Office," "Bridesmaids," and "21 Jump Street." A 2002 Princeton graduate, Kemper was chosen as the speaker by a committee made up of members of the graduating class.
Yale similarly holds a Class Day ceremony the day before graduation, this year featuring Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie received a master's degree in African history from Yale in 2008, and she has since written popular books such as “Americanah” and “We Should All Be Feminists,” which have been translated into more than 30 languages. She was also named one of Fortune Magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2017, Yale Daily News reported.
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