Speakers & Honorary Degree Recipients

This year, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will deliver the George Washington University's Commencement address before an audience of approximately 25,000 graduates, friends and family members on the National Mall. Ms. Duckworth will also be awarded an honorary doctorate from the university.

The university has a history of attracting high-profile Commencement speakers. Former presidents, first ladies, politicians, renowned scientists, activists, actors, authors, athletes, and more, have been past GW Commencement speakers due to their demonstration of unwavering determination, passion, and integrity.

Previous GW commencement speakers include U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Apple CEO Tim Cook; award-winning actress and alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ’98; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; First Lady Michelle Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

2017 Commencement Speaker

2017 GW Commencement Speaker U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth

Combat veteran, Purple Heart recipient and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will deliver the George Washington University's commencement address before an audience of 25,000 graduates, friends and family members on May 21 on the National Mall. Sen. Duckworth, M.A. ‘92, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after serving two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. While in the House, Sen. Duckworth was a member of the Armed Services Committee and helped pass several policies to help veterans.

The university has a history of attracting high-profile Commencement speakers. Former presidents, first ladies, politicians, renowned scientists, activists, actors, authors, athletes, and more, have been past GW Commencement speakers due to their demonstration of unwavering determination, passion, and integrity.

Previous GW commencement speakers include U.S. Senator Corey Booker; Apple CEO Tim Cook; award-winning actress and alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ’98; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; First Lady Michelle Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

2017 Honorary Degree Recipients

Senator Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, M.A. ’92, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after serving two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Duckworth was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is an advocate for soldiers and others with disabilities.

Lieutenant General Nadja West

Lt. Gen. Nadja West

Dr. Nadja West, M.D. ’88, is the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command. Dr. West has commanded at the Army Community Hospital, Army Medical Center and Regional Medical Command levels.

Marty Baron

Marty Baron

Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, joined the Post in 2013 and manages its news operation. Previously, he was editor of The Boston Globe when the newspaper investigated the cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests that inspired the film “Spotlight.”

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who inspire the graduating class, bring honor to the university, and pay tribute to our diverse nation. Honorary degrees are conferred on individuals who demonstrate the value of hard work, dignity, and integrity. Nominees should distinguish themselves in at least two of the three categories:

  1. distinguished professional, scholarly, intellectual, or creative achievement
  2. demonstrated interest in activities that contribute to the public good, including public service and/or philanthropy 
  3. connection to the George Washington University

GW students, faculty, administrators, deans, alumni, and members of the general public may nominate individuals for honorary degrees by completing an honorary degree nomination form.


Student Speaker

Julia Haigney delivering her 2016 Commencement Speech

In a unique “only at GW” tradition, a student speaker has participated at every commencement ceremony since 1992. The student speaker reflects on his or her experiences at GW in a way that resonates with graduates at all levels. In front of 25,000 people on the National Mall, the student speaker serves as a model of the GW experience, delivering strong content in a way that connects with both students and guests.