BREAKING NEWS: Trachtenberg to headline Commencement

Updated Wednesday, April 11, 2:01 p.m.
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 11:50 a.m.

Outgoing University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg will be this year’s keynote speaker at Commencement, he confirmed Wednesday.

The University-wide ceremony, which will be Trachtenberg’s last, will take place May 20 on the National Mall between 4th and 7th streets. Trachtenberg has addressed graduates each year as a speaker at the ceremony, but has never been the keynote speaker. Last year’s keynote speakers were former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.

“We explored all our options,” Trachtenberg said about the University’s decision to name him keynote speaker. “Well, we thought about the Queen of England. But, in the end, we thought we’ve given you such a rich array of speakers during the year, between the president of Afghanistan and the president of Pakistan and former presidents of the United States … When people are dining on a high-calorie diet like that, periodically you have to cut back on a little bit of that diet.”

Trachtenberg will be stepping down from his position this summer after 19 years.

Also speaking at this year’s Commencement ceremony will be Linda Cropp, former chair of the D.C. City Council and unsuccessful candidate for mayor, she confirmed Wednesday. Cropp’s husband, Dwight Cropp, is an associate professor of public policy and public administration at GW.

“There’s no question it’s an honor to be a participant in the ceremony,” said Cropp, who added that she was invited about a month ago but did not have any more details on the event.

Trachtenberg only cited one specific person who was an alternative to him as keynote speaker. Though, according to officials in London, Queen Elizabeth II was never invited.

A spokesperson at Buckingham Palace said she even though she was “not aware of an invitation” to the British monarch from the University, her highness couldn’t speak at Commencement anyway since her visit to the United States ends in early May. “Because she’s not in the country on that date – and she will have returned from her state visit – she unfortunately won’t be able to be there,” said Communications and Press Secretary Penny Russell-Smith, who is also senior adviser to the Queen and the Royal Household.

-David Ceasar contributed to this report.

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