New York City Mayor and well-known philanthropist Michael Bloomberg will serve as the keynote speaker for the University-wide Commencement in May, where he will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service, University President Steven Knapp announced Friday.
Knapp made the announcement on Bloomberg’s turf in Manhattan, N.Y., at the second annual GW Global Forum, which brings together global leaders and GW alumni to discuss worldwide economic issues.
“We believe he will be an inspiring speaker as a three-term mayor of a very important city,” Knapp said in an interview with The Hatchet after the event.
The choice is an unsurprising one for the University, as Bloomberg is noted for his public service and philanthropy, two cornerstones of the University.
Bloomberg is also a public figure without major ties to either mainstream political party. Conservative students have expressed discontent with the University in the past for having a string of liberal speakers.
Besides his role as mayor, Bloomberg is noted for his extensive philanthropy. Through the Bloomberg Family Foundation, he donated or pledged almost $700 million to charities before 2007, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. He was elected in 2002 and served as mayor of New York City for the last nine years.
“I hope [the GW community] will be excited,” Knapp said. “He is an important national leader, a most creative philanthropist who is active in many efforts.”
Knapp said Bloomberg also has significant ties to the University, as approximately 1,700 current graduates and 15,000 alumni have come from or live in the New York City metropolitan region.
Knapp added that the University’s Commencement speaker must convey guiding remarks and inspiration as graduates begin a new stage in their life after college, all qualities which Knapp said that the philanthropic and political leader conveys.
Knapp said the University received more than 30 suggestions for speakers this year, and eventually narrowed down the pool to six. The multifaceted process for selection of a speaker began under the Board of Trustees and was ultimately decided on by Knapp and other University senior staff members.
Bloomberg will speak to an estimated 25,000 graduates and guests on the National Mall during the University-wide Commencement ceremony.
Student Association President Jason Lifton said Bloomberg was a good choice for Commencement speaker.
“I think that his success in business and politics will really speak to GW students,” Lifton said. “We’re excited to have him here.”
Bloomberg most recently delivered the Commencement address to the Class of 2010 at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
First lady Michelle Obama was the Commencement speaker for the GW Class of 2010’s ceremony this past May. Previous GW Commencement speakers include Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama; former President George H.W. Bush; former first lady Barbara Bush; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
-Lauren French contributed to this report