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Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf Is Among Commencement Speaker Class of 2007

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will give the keynote address at commencement ceremonies at Langston University and Spelman College this month.

“This will be a day to mark in the history of Langston University,” says president JoAnn W. Haysbert. “President Johnson Sirleaf is a dynamic world leader who spreads a profound message of justice, peace and community service.”

At the time of year when colleges are jockeying for the most prestigious speakers, Johnson Sirleaf’s appearance is a major coup for the two historically Black colleges and universities. But the college leaders say Johnson Sirleaf is especially fitting as a speaker charged with inspiring the graduates to go out into the world and make their mark.

Known as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” Johnson Sirleaf spent more than a year in jail and endured death threats for her efforts to bring justice to her native Liberia. In November 2005, the Harvard University-educated activist and former World Bank economist became the first woman to lead an African nation. 

“The more than 500 graduates who have each made a choice to change the world by attending Spelman College will be inspired by the powerful sentiments of a woman who is only the second Black female head of state in the world,” says Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum.  

“Her unwavering resolve — to heal war-ravaged Liberia, educate its women and girls, shore up its deflated economy, rehabilitate ex-rebels, reconcile with former combatants — is the substance that this year’s graduates hope to embody as they venture forward into their lives beyond the gates of Spelman College.”

Here’s a list of other commencement speakers:

Alliant International University

Marissa Pei: Best-selling author and international corporate consultant

Bennett College for Women

Poet, activist and professor Maya Angelou

Berea College

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Director, Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research

Brigham Young University

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney

Bucknell University

Bob Woodward: Washington Post assistant managing editor and author

California Institute of Technology

Jared Diamond: Pulitzer Prize-winning author, evolutionary biologist, physiologist and biogeographer

Canisius College

Marv Levy: General manager and former head coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills

The Citadel

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Colgate University

Bob Woodruff: Reporter, “ABC News”

Dillard University

U.S. Senator, D-N.Y., and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton

Drury University

Bob Barker: Host of “The Price is Right”

Hampden-Sydney College

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr.

Harvard University

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

Harvey Mudd College

Mae Jemison: Medical doctor and former astronaut

Howard University

Television host and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey

Indiana University

Civil rights activist and television/radio host Tavis Smiley

John Marshall School of Law

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga: Former leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

Kenyon College

David Gregory: “NBC News” White House correspondent

Knox College

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Langston University

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Lincoln University (Pa.)

Dr. Benjamin Carson: Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University

Miami Dade College

U.S. President George W. Bush

Middlebury College

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Northwestern University

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Emmy Award-winning actress and Northwestern alum

Ohio State University

U.S. Senator, R-Ariz., and presidential candidate John McCain

Regent University

Former Massachusetts Gov. and U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Richard Bland College

Former Virginia Gov. and U.S. presidential candidate Mark Warner

Rochester Institute of Technology

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Saint Michaels College

Cokie Roberts: National Public Radio senior news analyst

Saint Norbert College

U.S. President George W. Bush

Saint Vincent College

U.S. President George W. Bush

San Francisco State University

Kamala D. Harris: San Francisco’s first female district attorney and California’s first Black female district attorney

Siena College

Dan Rather: Host, HDNet & Former anchor, “CBS Evening News”

Southern New Hampshire University

U.S. Senator, D-Ill., and presidential candidate Barack Obama

Spelman College

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Stanford University

Dana Gioia: Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a renowned poet

St. John’s University

George Stephanopoulos: Former White House communications director and host of ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulous”

Southern University

U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.

Tufts University

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Tulane University

Brian Williams: Anchor, “NBC Nightly News”

University of Connecticut School of Law

Shirin Ebadi: 2003 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the award

University of Delaware

William P. Kupper Jr: president and CEO of BusinessWeek group

University of Mary Washington

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich

University of New Hampshire

Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

University of Oklahoma

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

University of Pennsylvania

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Ted Koppel: Former anchor of ABC’s “Nightline” and current managing editor of The Discovery Channel

University of Vermont

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. & former leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

Xavier University of Louisiana

Kenneth Chenault: Chairman and CEO, American Express

Washington University in St. Louis

Tim Russert: Anchor, ABC’s “Meet the Press”

Wellesley College

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

Wilberforce University

U.S. Senator, D-N.Y. and 2008 Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton

Williams College

Katie Couric: Anchor, “CBS Evening News”

Winston-Salem State University

Dr. Harold L. Martin Sr.: Senior vice president for academic affairs of University of North Carolina system

Wittenberg University

Juan Williams: Award-winning journalist and author

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