Social activist Geoffrey Canada to speak at Commencement

Geoffrey Canada

Educational innovator and advocate Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer for Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), will be the Commencement speaker at Penn’s 256th Commencement on Monday, May 14, at Franklin Field.

The HCZ Project serves more than 11,000 children in Harlem, N.Y., providing an innovative and comprehensive range of educational, social, and medical services to children, following them from birth through college.

Established in 1997, the HCZ Project has been called “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time,” by The New York Times, and serves as a model for the Obama Administration’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative, a federal program designed to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in America’s most distressed communities.

“Geoffrey Canada has changed the landscape of American education,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “By developing a groundbreaking program that provides youth living in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods with caring and comprehensive social, academic, health, and moral support from cradle to college, he has created a pathway to success for thousands of students.”

A native of the South Bronx, Canada is the author of “Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America” and “Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.” His work was featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” 

In 2011, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Canada will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Commencement.

Other honorary-degree recipients are David Petraeus, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired United States Army general; civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); Ruzena Bajcsy, professor emerita of computer science and engineering at Penn and a pioneering researcher in machine perception, robotics, and artificial intelligence; Akira Endo, biochemist and pioneering statins researcher; Peter Lax, mathematical theorist; and Anna Deavere Smith, social activist and award-winning actress and playwright.

The entire Penn community is welcome to attend Commencement. The ceremony will also be webcast

For more information, visit the Commencement website.

Originally published on March 22, 2012