Alumni Share Their Commencement Speaker Memories

Commencement 2015

The freshly-minted graduates of the Class of 2015 joined more than 270,000 of their fellow Colonials as members of the GW Alumni community during commencement ceremonies on the National Mall on May 17. Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered this year’s commencement address, urging graduates to find their “North Star” and let it guide them in life. We asked GW Alumni about memories from their commencement speakers, and dozens of you responded. Below are just a few; you can read the rest on the GW Alumni Facebook page.


José Andrés (2014)

Jose Andres in 2014.
José Andrés delivered last year’s commencement address.

Chef José Andrés and his restaurant have been fixtures in the Washington, D.C. food scene. Since 2012, the James Beard Award winner has been a fixture at GW as well, teaching a popular course for GW students, opening a new restaurant on campus, and delivering GW’s commencement address in 2014.

Alumni commencement memory:
José Andrés for the class of 2014!! Great speech…”making your life from scratch is always the best way to cook things up. Just don’t be afraid to try new ingredients!”


Michelle Obama at commencement in 2010.
Michelle Obama at commencement in 2010.

First Lady Michelle Obama (2010)
First Lady Michelle Obama challenged GW students, faculty, and staff to perform 100,000 hours of community service during the 2009-10 academic year. They responded with gusto, performing 163,980 service hours and securing the first lady as that spring’s commencement speaker.

Alumni commencement memory:
Michelle Obama, 2010. She is an amazing, inspiring woman. What she said that stuck with me was “Creating anything meaningful takes time.” 


Madeline Albright (2000)

Madeleine Albright on campus in 2014.
Madeleine Albright on campus in 2014.

The first woman to serve as the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright was a pivotal diplomatic figure in the last years of the 20th century. She was succeeded as Secretary of State by Colin Powell, GWSB MBA ’71, who delivered GW’s commencement address in 1990.

Alumni commencement memory:
Madeline Albright (2000) and that was during the year of IMF and World Bank protests, so there was some excitement when a few naked streakers with body paint ran past the stage…


Bob Dole
Senator Bob Dole delivered the 1998 commencement address.

Bob Dole (1998)
A 1996 presidential candidate, Senator Bob Dole was a veteran of U.S. Congress with 35 years of service. A decorated veteran of WWII, Dole served in a number of prominent positions for the GOP, including Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Senate Majority Leader.

Alumni commencement memory:
Bob Dole ’98. He said he always imagined speaking in front of a large crowd on the mall – but that the speech would have started off with ” I, Bob Dole do solemnly swear….” 


Lichtenstien_Washington portrait
Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein was known for works like this portrait of George Washington.

Roy Lichtenstein (1996)
Roy Lichtenstein was an American pop artist best known for his boldly-colored parodies of comic strips and advertisements. He, along with Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, was a leading figure in the American pop art movement of the 1960s.

Alumni commencement memory:
Roy Liechtenstein 1996, it was about 100 degrees out and he said (paraphrasing), “if brevity is the soul of wit, this will be the funniest speech ever!”



Thanks everyone for sharing your memories, and congrats to the Class of 2015!  Don’t forget to check out more GW Alumni commencement speaker memories here.

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