News & Politics

Ketanji Brown Jackson, Gayle King, and President Biden Will Give This Year’s Commencement Addresses at Local Universities

Raphael Warnock, Maxwell Frost, and Savannah Guthrie will also speak at area ceremonies.

Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photograph by Evy Mages .

It’s graduation season for the DC area’s colleges and universities. Which high-profile figures will take the stage at local commencement ceremonies? Here’s a rundown: 


Howard University

President Joe Biden, Senator Raphael Warnock

Biden will be the seventh sitting President to deliver the commencement address at DC’s largest HBCU this Saturday. President Herbert Hoover was the first (1932) and Barack Obama was the last (2016). “We are excited to receive the President as this year’s distinguished guest and recognize him for his relentless work uplifting our communities that have been historically left behind,” said Howard University President Wayne Frederick. Biden will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters.  

Additionally, Georgia senator Rev. Raphael Warnock will address graduates from the School of Law.


George Washington University

Bryan Stevenson

Equal Justice Initiative executive director Bryan Stevenson will address GW’s graduating class on the National Mall on May 21st. Stevenson has worked with and for death row inmates, children, and the wrongfully convicted for over 35 years. “As an advocate for human rights, representative for the wrongly convicted and unfairly sentenced, and leader of anti-poverty and antidiscrimination efforts, Bryan Stevenson will serve as an inspiration to our graduates,” said President Mark S. Wrighton.


Georgetown University

Multiple Speakers

Georgetown’s graduation is a full weekend of media and public policy heavyweights, including:

  • Longtime Today show host and NBC legal correspondent  Savannah Guthrie, who will address Georgetown Law. 
  • NBC News Washington correspondent Yamiche Leone Alcindor (‘09), who will address the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Dasha Navalnaya, who will address the Walsh School of Foreign Service on behalf of her father, imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 
  • Deloitte CEO Dan Helfrich (‘98), who will address the McDonough Schools of Business.
  • Business executive and Georgetown Board of Directors member Frank McCourt (‘75), who will address the McCourt School of Public Policy.


Catholic University of America

Arthur C. Brooks

Atlantic columnist, bestselling author, and “happiness expert”  Arthur C. Brooks will headline CUA’s ceremony. “Too often our society sees the glass half-empty, looking largely at the negative. But Arthur Brooks is different: while a realist, he sees the world as a place where people can find purpose, happiness, and joy throughout their lives,” said CUA President Peter K. Kilpatrick.


University of the District of Columbia

Congressman Maxwell A. Frost

House of Representatives member Maxwell Frost (D-FL) will address UDC graduates this Saturday morning. Frost, 25, is the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress. His advocacy focuses on gun violence and working-class Afro Latinos. “Congressman Frost…brings a much-needed voice to the highest government chambers,” said UDC President Ronald Mason. “Congressman Frost’s dedication and courage is a source of inspiration for the University’s graduates and the larger community.” 


American University

Multiple Speakers

Like Georgetown, American University features an ensemble cast this weekend:

  • Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will address the Washington College of Law. Jackson made history in 2022 as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
  • Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis will address the Schools of Education and Communication this Friday. Leonsis also owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics. 
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Alice Albright will address the School of International Service on Friday.
  • Nasdaq, INC. CEO Adena T. Friedman will address the Kogod School of Business and Professional Studies on Saturday. 
  • Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan will address the School of Public Affairs on Saturday.
  • Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent will address the College of Arts and Sciences on Saturday.


University of Maryland, College Park

Gayle King

CBS Mornings co-host and UMD alum Gayle King (‘76) will address the Terrapins on May 22nd. “It has been my privilege and priority to get to know Gayle and convey the pride her Terrapin community feels in recognition of her many accomplishments,” said UMD President Daryl Pines. “I am honored that our graduates will have the opportunity to learn from her journey.” 


Bowie State University

Kenneth C. Frazier

The Prince George’s County HBCU will welcome Kenneth C. Frazier, retired CEO of Merck & Co., as its speaker Frazier is the first African American to lead a Fortune 500 company. 


George Mason University

Governor Glenn Youngkin

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin will address the Fairfax university’s graduating class on Thursday, May 18th. There’s been some backlash from students, due to Youngkin’s roll-back of protections for transgender students. Nonetheless, the speech will go on. “Is his inclusion in commencement a betrayal of our core identity of diversity, and commitment to inclusivity? Or are his presence and the passionate objections it has inspired actually the purest reflections of who we are as Mason Patriots?” asked George Mason President Gregory Washington.   

Malcolm Ferguson
Editorial Fellow