AU announces commencement speakers for spring 2018
Washington Post reporter, Liberian activist among the speakers
American University has announced its slate of commencement speakers for this spring's graduation ceremonies, set to take place in May.
The chosen speakers — two women and four men — include media professionals, civil liberties and women's rights activists and heads of government agencies.
School of Public Affairs: Robert Costa
Robert Costa is a reporter for the Washington Post with over a decade of journalism experience. His career began by covering the health care battle and the 2010 midterm elections. In 2014, Costa became a reporter for the Post, where he continues to cover Congress and meet regularly with elected officials and their constituents. Costa has served as moderator for the PBS show “Washington Week” since April 2017.
School of International Service: Leymah Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, renowned for uniting Christian and Muslim Liberian women in a movement that played an integral role in ending Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Gbowee went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and continues to serve as a women’s rights activist through her work with the Nobel Women’s Institute, Gbowee Peace Foundation, the PeaceJam Foundation and the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning.
School of Communication: Michael Kempner
Michael Kempner is the founder and chief executive officer of MWWPR, one of the country's largest independent public relations firms. He started the agency in 1986, six years after he graduated from AU.
Apart from his work at the agency, Kempner was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for which he currently serves. Kempner has also been honored with several of the industry’s highest accolades, including PR Week’s PR Professional of the Year twice and the PRNews Hall of Fame.
College of Arts and Sciences: Anthony S. Fauci, MD
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he was appointed to in 1984. His most notable work includes policy advising for five presidents on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues, both global and domestic.
Fauci’s work has been highly recognized. He has been a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.
Kogod School of Business: Jeffrey Zients
Jeffrey Zients is the former director of the National Economic Council and current Economic Strategy Group member of the Aspen Institute.
During his time at the National Economic Council, Zients served as President Barack Obama’s principal economic policy advisor and as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget— which University President Sylvia Burwell directed during the Obama administration. He also led the initiative to revamp the healthcare.gov website after its failure in 2013.
Outside of his government experience, Zients founded and held leadership positions in other private firms and organizations, such as Portfolio Logic, the Advisory Board Company and Corporate Executive Board.
Washington College of Law: Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and former leader of the Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Department of Justice. Her work at the Civil Rights Division included a broad range of issues including disability rights, LGBTQ rights, human trafficking, criminal justice reform and voting rights.
Prior to her governmental work, Gupta served as the director of the Center for Justice at the ACLU and as a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
This article has been updated to reflect the awards received by Michael Kempner.