Duckworth named 2017 Commencement speaker

Public domain photo courtesy the United States Congress.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., will be the keynote speaker at Commencement in May.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., will be the keynote speaker at Commencement this year, the University announced Tuesday.

Duckworth, who was elected to the Senate in 2016 after two terms in the House of Representatives, is a combat veteran, Purple Heart Recipient and alumna. She earned her master’s degree from GW in international affairs in 1992.

The senator has been a longtime advocate for veterans and their families, particularly those struggling with mental health and other disabilities. She served as assistant secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs and, as a member of the House, helped pass legislation to help reduce veteran suicide and to help veterans find jobs in the private sector.

Duckworth said in a release that her education at GW helped form the foundation for her political and advocacy work since graduating.

“I went to GW in part because of its outstanding record educating students in international relations, something that is as relevant and important today as it has ever been,” Duckworth said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had and the role my alma mater played in them, but I never anticipated giving the commencement address being one of them. I’m humbled by this invitation and look forward to encouraging my fellow alums to go out and make a difference in the world.”

In the release, University President Steven Knapp called Duckworth one of GW’s “most distinguished” alumni.

“From her military service to her tireless advocacy on behalf of veterans, women and families, Sen. Duckworth has dedicated her life to serving her country,” Knapp said. “She embodies a spirit of service and sacrifice that has inspired our many GW veterans and our university as a whole.”

Duckworth has continued to be involved with the University since graduating, receiving the first Colin Powell Public Service Award in 2009 and the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2014. She also served on the committee for the Capitol Hill Alumni reception in January.

University Commencement will take place on the National Mall on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., gave last year’s address, and Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke in 2015.

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