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Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee Announced as Barnard’s Commencement Speaker

Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee

And Lena Dunham’s getting a medal–but not giving a speech.

Barnard has just announced that their 2013 commencement speaker will be Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. In the words of DSpar:

Ms. Gbowee’s leadership helped galvanize an entire nation’s women to stand together against violence and end a civil war, and she continues to work tirelessly to eradicate violence against women worldwide. Her efforts demonstrate the power of interreligious collaboration and political participation, and have been heralded by the Nobel committee as among the most important peace-building initiatives of our time. This is a woman who is truly changing the world, and it will be an absolute honor to welcome her to Barnard’s Commencement this year.

Three other “pathmakers in their fields” will join Gbowee in receiving a Barnard Medal of Distinction: Jimmie Briggs, journalist and human-right advocate; Elizabeth Diller, architect of the High Line; and, of course, Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s “GIRLS” and a voice of a generation. The graduates will also hear from Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald, BC ’81, chair of the Barnard Board of Trustees and CEO of the Alberleen Group.

So now you have a good reason to make that trek to Radio City Music Hall.

From the press release:

About the Medalists

2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker, and women’s rights advocate. She is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, founder of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, and co-founder and former executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A). She is also a founding member and former Liberia coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Gbowee’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003, is chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, and in the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In addition, Gbowee is the Newsweek Daily Beast’s Africa columnist. She serves on the boards of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Gbowee Peace Foundation and the PeaceJam Foundation, and she is a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. She holds a master of arts degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA), and a doctor of laws (LLD) honoris causa from Rhodes University in South Africa and University of Alberta in Canada. Gbowee was honored as a flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and has six children.

Over the past two decades, Jimmie Briggs has earned a reputation as one of the most respected human rights advocates in the field of journalism. A graduate of Morehouse College, he has produced seminal reporting on the lives of war-affected youth and children soldiers, as well as survivors of sexual violence. His book about child soldiers and war-affected children, Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War, won accolades in 2005. Briggs has served as an adjunct professor of investigative journalism at the New School for Social Research, and was a George A. Miller Visiting Professor in the department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His upcoming book, Blood Work, questions manhood, masculinity, and transformation in the 21st century. Most recently, Briggs founded the Man Up Campaign, a global initiative for mobilizing young people to stop violence against women and girls through the arts, sports, and technology. For his work with the Man Up Campaign and the issue of violence against women, Briggs was selected as the winner of the 2010 GQ magazine’s “Better Men Better World” search, as well as being chosen one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews.

Elizabeth Diller is a founding principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a 90-person interdisciplinary design studio that integrates architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. Diller is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Award, the National Design Award from Smithsonian, the Brunner Prize from the American Academy of the Arts and Letters, and numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects. She is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. DS+R’s international body of work includes the Lincoln Center redesign, the High Line, the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Image & Sound in Rio de Janeiro, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Columbia University Business School and Medical Center, and the Culture Shed and Tower D at Hudson Yards. Diller is a professor of architecture at Princeton.

Lena Dunham stars in GIRLS, the HBO series she created, and for which she serves as executive producer, writer, and director. Dunham won two Golden Globe Awards for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical” and “Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical.” She recently made history by becoming the first female director to win a Directors Guild Award for “Television Comedy Series.” Additionally, she received 4 Emmy® nominations for GIRLS, and the show was honored by AFI as one of the best “TV Programs of the Year.”

At only 23 years old, Dunham wrote, directed and starred in TINY FURNITURE, which won numerous honors including “Best Narrative Feature” at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival, an Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Screenplay,” and the 2010 LA Film Critics Association “New Generation Award.” Dunham, a 2008 graduate of Oberlin College, recently inked a booked deal with Random House for a collection of essays to be titled, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, comprised of Dunham’s advice on life, sex, and success.

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44 Comments

  • So like says:

    @So like This is codeword for Michelle, right?

  • T Boz says:

    @T Boz Seriously fuck Lena Dunham for tarnishing my graduation stage with her presence. UGH. Let’s hope she isn’t naked at commencement.

    1. tlc fan says:

      @tlc fan tell chilli i said hi

  • BUT says:

    @BUT LENA DUNHAM YOU GUYS

    1. BUT LEYMAH GBOWEE GUYS says:

      @BUT LEYMAH GBOWEE GUYS Seriously, I liked season 1 of Girls and I appreciate Lena Dunham, but Leymah is seriously the most inspiring woman I’ve ever read about/heard speak. Please please please look her up, her activism in Liberia was incredible, nonviolent, daring, and inclusive, and I’m super jealous of everyone who gets to hear her at commencement. Seriously, we talk shit in Lit Hum but this woman LIVED Lysistrata.

  • anonymous says:

    @anonymous she sounds amazing … which makes me feel like a jerk for being super disappointed anyway

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous As part of her very public goals for international expansion/conquest (also expressed in the Global Symposium), DSpar’s been talking about making friends with Liberia since she started here. My mother is friends with the Cooper family (of Helene) and DSpar was also interested in befriending them in 2010, when she held a meeting for campus publications on Barnard’s goals to culturally annex Africa, specifically Liberia. Mark my words: Liberia will be next year’s destination for the Global Symposium I think Ms. Gbowee is a fantastic choice, but I question some of Barnard’s motives for bringing her here.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Ok, I agree that the ethics of western colleges’ international programs is a big issue and there could be some questionable motives here. But Barnard has a goal of “culturally annex”ing Africa? That seems like a pretty unreasonable goal for a liberal arts college of 2000 students and a $160 million endowment. Maybe we should give Africa and its cultures some more credit.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I agree it sounds preposterous and a little imperialistic. Perhaps “culturally annex” wasn’t the right choice of words. She was very interested in meeting the Coopers, though, who happen to include a Macarthur-winning NYT journalist and national hero as well as the ambassador’s wife, though—and even if she hadn’t been, I think you’re underestimating the extent to which DSpar has always wanted Barnard to be a “global institution” and basically an international symbol.

        I wouldn’t dismiss this on the financial basis, either—they’re clearly getting huge sponsors, not that they’d be holding back regardless (see http://barnard.edu/global/symposia during housing crisis, part-time crisis, meal-plan crisis, pool crisis)

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I agree it sounds preposterous and a little imperialistic. Perhaps “culturally annex” wasn’t the right choice of words. She was very interested in meeting the Coopers, who happen to include a Macarthur-winning NYT journalist and national hero as well as the ambassador’s wife, though—and even if she hadn’t been, I think you’re underestimating the extent to which DSpar has always wanted Barnard to be a “global institution” and basically an international symbol. That was part of why she was selected as president.

        I wouldn’t dismiss this on the financial basis, either—they’re clearly getting huge sponsors, not that they’d be holding back regardless (see http://barnard.edu/global/symposia while BC can’t meet it’s operating costs)

      3. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I agree it sounds preposterous and a little imperialistic. Perhaps “culturally annex” wasn’t the right choice of words. You should look up the Coopers though—they’re very influential. In any case think you’re underestimating the extent of DSpar’s international ambitions, for which she was hired. She has been very forthright about wanting to make Barnard an international symbol for women.

        I wouldn’t dismiss this on the financial basis, either—they’re clearly getting huge sponsors, not that they’d be holding back regardless (see http://barnard.edu/global/symposia while we can’t meet operating costs)

      4. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous sorry if that just posted like 8 times— kept rewriting since it said it hadn’t posted

  • annoyed says:

    @annoyed not to minimize what Gbowee has accomplished but I just want to be entertained at my graduation so it’s not the boring crap we’re all expecting. is that too much to ask? Petition to switch dunham and gbowee just for comedic purposes

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Gbowee probably has a better sense of humor.

    2. well says:

      @well Here’s her at a TED talk. It popped up as one of the top results, if you had bothered to google her before whining.

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous You were expecting a black woman grassroots activist from a poor country?

  • dude says:

    @dude Gbowee is the one who organized that Lysistrata-esque protest, right? She’s legit

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The only way Lena Dunham should be permitted on that stage is if she explains why season 2 is such a massive piece of shit so far. Honestly, you can’t be throwing around medals of distinction at such an important women’s college when the jury is still out on whether Girls is a one hit wonder or not.

    1. an alum says:

      @an alum this is the most offensive comment I have ever read on Bwog, in all my time as a student and alumna. Season 2 is a fucking masterpiece. H8ers gonna h8.

      1. Really? says:

        @Really? THAT is the most offensive thing you’ve ever read on bowg?

    2. unpopular opinion says:

      @unpopular opinion season 2 > season 1

    3. L says:

      @L who the fuck asked u

    4. bc '16 says:

      @bc '16 didn’t you know? lena dunham doesn’t apologize sincerely for anything

      especially not this http://bit.ly/YSgFRV

  • CC '13 says:

    @CC '13 Still better than our soon-to-be announced class day speaker, guaranteed.

  • Ahem says:

    @Ahem Lena Dunham = voice of gifs, not a generation

    1. Not sure what gifs are ... says:

      @Not sure what gifs are ... But I do believe that by not putting “voice of a generation” in quotes Bwog is not recognizing the fallacy of the statement that Dunham is the voice of our generation. Dunham’s show and voice are certainly not inclusive and therefore may not represent an entire generation, unless we believe that our goal as a generation is to be petty and exclusive.

  • NYU says:

    @NYU Lena Dunham!?!?!?!

    That’s just stupid

    1. hey now says:

      @hey now people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. i mean, NYU? really..

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Neither of you even fucking GO HERE.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous ACTUALLY I DO GO HERE. ALSO THIS WAS A WEAK ATTEMPT AT A MEAN GIRLS REFERENCE

          1. NYU Student says:

            @NYU Student That was cheap, brah.

            All I’m saying is that it’s not Lena Dunham’s time.

            Trust me, I’m not throwing any stones. Takes way too much time, and since time is money…

            Well, that’s not too hard to figure out when you’re at NYU, right?

  • Anon says:

    @Anon It disgusts me that Lena Dunham was even considered for the Barnard Medal of Distinction, especially the same year as Leymah Gbowee, a fucking Noble Peace Prize winner.

    1. a girl says:

      @a girl hey hey NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU THINK LENA DUNHAM RULES SHUT UP

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous you need to calm down

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous LIZ DILLER WOOHOO

  • It says:

    @It doesn’t look like she’s missed a meal lately. Too much WacArnold’s

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Lena Dunham, really? I’m ashamed. Her show is just a hipster Sex in the City.

  • Disappointed says:

    @Disappointed Lena Dunham is an pseudo New Yorker who seems to have some sort of bleached notion of what this city is like–her portrayal of “Girls” is racist and exclusively is identifiable to white women. I don’t understand why people think she is the “voice of our generation” when she can’t even write a character of color onto her show? If you don’t have friends of color while living in this city, you’re probably doing something wrong. Getting a medal for writing yet another white-girls-on-the-town tv show is ridiculous. How about Mindy Kaling getting some appreciation? At least she demonstrates how a woman can be intelligent, hilarious, and a little crazy while still holding down a respected profession like medicine, and BECOMING A PARTNER at her office. The media already sends the wrong message to so many people about what women should be aspiring to, and Lena Dunham’s portrayal of the modern woman is not it.

    1. anonymous says:

      @anonymous Would it be better for Lena Dunham to write about the experiences of people she doesn’t know? Wouldn’t writing in people of color into the show just be tokenism? She’s honestly depicting the life SHE knows. Not every piece of art can be representative for EVERYONE, ever. It sucks there isn’t an equally popular show that depicts a more diverse NY, but if Dunham tried to do this it would be inauthentic and lame.
      And The Mindy project is nowhere as good as Girls, it just isn’t, sorry

      1. anon says:

        @anon i agree. i think that writing people of color into the show just because is just as stupid as not having any at all. not depicting black people isn’t racist– for some people it’s just real. i have very few black friends that i hang out with often… that doesn’t make me racist.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Ms. Gbowee’s picture reminds me of the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. :)

  • bc '16 says:

    @bc '16 ughhh Lena racist whitebread beige flop Dunham REALLY?

  • Is this says:

    @Is this the closest any speaker’s name will be to BWOG?

    GBOWee

    Crayz!

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