Baker to Speak
at Commencement

Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker brings a long and distinguished record of public service to the University’s 251st Commencement on May 14. Which is not to say that everyone is happy with him delivering the Commencement address.

Baker’s lengthy CV includes a recent stint as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group as well as White House chief of staff and secretary of the treasury under President Ronald Reagan. Students who felt that last year’s choice of speakers, actress Jodie Foster Hon’06, lacked the necessary gravitas, were pleased that the University’s trustee committee on honorary degrees would choose someone with a high-profile commitment to public service.

But those who felt that Baker has not always been sufficiently sympathetic to Israel did not care for the choice, nor did Democrats who still resent his role in the Florida recount efforts during the 2000 presidential election.

An editorial in The Daily Pennsylvanian called Baker “a unique and refreshingly controversial choice.” While it is “clear where Baker’s political allegiances lie,” it added, the University’s selection is “not an endorsement of his views” but a “recognition that Penn students come from a variety of backgrounds, and can all appreciate a politically important speaker.”

In addition to Baker, Penn will confer honorary degrees upon Dr. Aaron T. Beck, the University Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry; Shirley Franklin G’89, the mayor of Atlanta; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; physicist Mildred Dresselhaus; singer Aretha Franklin; and historian Caroline Bynum.


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