Barnard Keynote Speaker Announced

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Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards

This afternoon, Barnard announced that Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be the keynote speaker at Barnard’s 122nd commencement ceremony. The ceremony will take place on May 18, and for the second consecutive year will be held at Radio City Music Hall. We really hope there won’t be pro-life protests outside.

We couldn’t agree more with DSpar’s statement:

[Richards] “is at the center of the ongoing national dialogue on women’s rights and health. Her extraordinary insight and experience will inspire our graduates, whose own lives and careers will contribute to the future of these critically important issues for women everywhere.”

Barnard will also award Medals of Distinction to Mahzarin Banaji (social psychologist), Ursula Burns (of Xerox and SEAS), and Patti Smith (musician).

Recent speakers at Barnard’s commencement have included Leymah GboweeBarack Obama, Meryl Streep, Bloomberg, and Hillary Clinton. Can you believe it’s been a full two years since Obamanard?

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, will deliver the keynote address at Barnard College’s 122nd Commencement on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She will address approximately 600 members of the Class of 2014 and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the College’s highest honor, together with three other honorees: Mahzarin Banaji, social psychologist and professor of social ethics at Harvard University, Ursula Burns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox, and Patti Smith, acclaimed musician, poet and artist.

“Throughout her career, Cecile Richards has advocated for civic engagement and public participation as essential components of law-making and the political process,” said Barnard President Debora L. Spar. “Now, as head of Planned Parenthood, she is at the center of the ongoing national dialogue on women’s rights and health. Her extraordinary insight and experience will inspire our graduates, whose own lives and careers will contribute to the future of these critically important issues for women everywhere.”

Spar, who will preside over the ceremony, will confer the Barnard Medals of Distinction, present the degree candidates, and address the expected crowd of approximately 3,500 graduates, family members, faculty, and staff. The graduates will also hear from Jolyne Caruso-Fitzgerald ’81, chair of the Barnard Board of Trustees and CEO of the Alberleen Group.

In recent years, Barnard’s Commencement speakers have included Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, President Barack Obama, legendary actress Meryl Streep, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

About the Medalists

A nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights, Cecile Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Since joining Planned Parenthood in 2006, Ms. Richards has expanded its advocacy for access to health care and ensured that Planned Parenthood played a pivotal role in shaping health care coverage and services for women under the Affordable Care Act. Prior to Planned Parenthood, Ms. Richards was deputy chief of staff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2004, she founded and served as president of America Votes, a coalition of grassroots organizations working to maximize voter participation. Ms. Richards currently serves on the board of the Ford Foundation.

Mahzarin Banaji is Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the department of psychology at Harvard University, and simultaneously, George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chair in Human Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute. Prior to teaching at Harvard, she was a professor of psychology at Yale from 1986 to 2002. Ms. Banaji is devoted to undergraduate and graduate education, serving as head tutor at Harvard and director of undergraduate studies at Yale, where she won the university’s Lex Hixon Prize for teaching excellence. Dr. Banaji studies unconscious thinking and feeling as they unfold in social contexts, and has primarily researched social attitudes and beliefs in adults and children. Her current interests focus on the origins of social cognition and applications of implicit cognition to improve organizational practices.

Ursula M. Burns is chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox, the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management. Burns was named CEO in July 2009, and shortly thereafter made the largest acquisition in Xerox history, the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services. Named chairman of the company in 2010, Ms. Burns leads the 140,000 employees of Xerox who serve clients in more than 160 countries. In addition to the Xerox board, she is a board member of the American Express Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation. Ms. Burns also provides leadership counsel to community, educational and non-profit organizations including the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S. education system in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In March 2010, President Barack Obama appointed her vice chair of the President’s Export Council.

Patti Smith is a groundbreaking singer-songwriter, poet, visual artist, and actress who was a major influence on the punk movement of the 1970s. Ms. Smith’s first recording, Horses, was inducted into the National Recording Registry in 2010 at the Library of Congress. Author of the acclaimed memoir Just Kids, which chronicled her friendship and journey in art with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Ms. Smith was awarded the 2010 National Book Award. As well as being a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, she holds the honor of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture, and in 2011, was the recipient of Sweden’s Polar Award. Ms. Smith holds honorary degrees from institutions including Bryn Mawr College, the School of Art Institute of Chicago, Pratt Institute, School of Art and Design, and Rowan State University. She continues to write and perform readings, and lends support for human rights issues.

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  1. troll  

    can pro-life ppl skip?

    • Not a troll  

      For real though, this is actually extremely alienating to people who believe that abortion is wrong. It's one thing to bring her in independently, but for commencement (which is supposed to be for all the seniors) why have a deeply offensive speaker who some Barnard students, myself included, see as promoting something highly offensive and morally wrong? I'm really disappointed, Barnard.

      • Anonymous  

        Planned Parenthood does not in any way 'promote' abortions; abortions are just one service they provide for women who make that choice for themselves. I think even if you disagree with abortions you can still appreciate everything else Planned Parenthood does for women's health in America.

      • I get where you are coming from but...

        Planned Parenthood (PP) sees abortion as a last resort, but they provide SAFE abortions in a world where abortions are legal, and do not shame women. The purpose of planned parenthood is to educate people on sexual health. They teach those how to have safe sex and provide the resources to have safe sex. They also give women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy all the options, which does include abortions, but also adoption and keeping the child. PP tries to limit abortions by teaching people safe sex. They also offer STD screenings and educational information on STDs. PP is also a more affordable option for some women. I get where you are coming from, do not get me wrong, but the people who work for PP do not think abortions are cool, they want to give people the tools to not have them. You have every right to have your views on abortion and I am no way saying they are wrong but PP is so much more than an abortion clinic, it is an educational tool in a country where many see sex as a sin and do not educate there children. It is not as if NAR-AL is coming. sorry for long response

    • anon  

      Were Republicans given the option of skipping Obama? lol

    • Anonymous  

      Pro-life people are wrong, so no.

  2. Anonymous

    yeah will there be protests outside of the hall? that's inconvenient.

    • anon

      More like "anti-choice"--you can be personally and morally opposed to abortion and still believe that legalized abortion is a preferable measure and literal lifesaver for thousands of women every year. I bet everyone who downvoted this comment consider themselves to be politically "fair and balanced," lmao.

  3. Twerkin Trina  

    Who's plan b?
    I really think this choice is highly political (Obama was too). Not everyone is pro-choice!

  4. Netflix Addict  

    Thought it was Claire Underwood at first

  5. Anonymous  

    kinda wish Patti was giving the keynote instead but oh well

  6. seriously?

    >goes to barnard
    >isnt pro-choice


  7. planned parenthood isn't  

    an abortion factory. They provide numerous other health services to women, like OB/GYN exams, birth control, STD screenings, cancer screenings, and so much more. Yes, they have an association with abortions because that's one of the services they provide, but it's important that an organization that focuses on women's health (NOT just abortions) be recognized as more than just an abortion clinic.

  8. anonypuss  

    Damn now there are going to be even more of those annoying people trying to get me to talk to them about women's rights in front of the gates

    • lol  

      that's what they wanted? i never actually listened to them. it's amazing how much rudeness you can get away with by sticking a pair of earphones in your ears.

    • Anonymous  

      they're not just talking about 'womens rights', they're second-wave feminists mosty protesting against pornography and i'd say that most barnard students hold to a different feminism than they do

  9. Alright  

    I'm not a Barnard student, but I generally wish that commencement speakers weren't such political figures. Yes, they often have celebrity appeal, and yes, Planned Parenthood does much more than advocate for pro-choice causes, but at the same time, there's an element of exclusivity to political speakers for those who disagree with the speakers' views. Graduation is an experience where many students celebrate with their families, there's no need to spark unnecessary conflicts. Political and religious leaders are poor choices in my mind.

  10. mother

    So saddened by this.

    Many families that send their daughters to Barnard are quietly pro-life including ours. This is such a slap in the face to our religious and moral beliefs on a day which should be a celebration of our daughters. I wonder how many families will choose not to attend this event.

  11. Popcorn stocks  


  12. Closing of the American mind

    The problem with these pc speakers, college administrations and blindly loyal college kids, is that they won't do a bit of research and accept what appears to be the truth. Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortion services in this country completing one out of four abortions. The abortion rates for African Americans, in NYC, is a staggering 31,200 in 2012 versus live births of 24,700. Think about that for a moment - more African American pregnancies are terminated in abortion rather than being born to loving families. In another time, this would be considered a pogrom and not a social service. But then again, PP's founder, Margaret Sanger had very clear racial preferences and acted on them, so, just maybe, consider that PP is not some glorious group bring healthcare to poor women. To me, these types of actions are clearly racist, most likely anti-Semitic and anti-Muslin and very clearly anti-woman.

    But most likely in the fine open discussions of colleges today, this post will get shouted down by the blindly obedient. But I wont be surprised - these same groups have convinced a lot of smart kids to go be unpaid interns at multi-billion dollar companies - in essence taking minimum wage jobs from the poor and needy.

    But I remain hopeful that some of you will do some research, think about the facts and decide if you really want to be aligned with groups like Planned Parenthood. But the deeper message to college administrations is that parents and the graduates will reflect upon these speaker selections and decide where they send contributions - to groups that support racist anti-woman ideas or to more benevolent groups that help the poor and hungry.

    • I'm sure I won't change your mind, but...  

      Do you really think that had those abortions never happened, the babies would all be "born into loving families"? Because that's hopelessly naive. I don't envy the child who grows up unwanted and resented by their family because "anti-racist" pro-lifers decided the mother shouldn't have the agency to decide when to start a family. Poor black women, getting brain-washed by Planned Parenthood; they definitely need you telling them how they're hurting their race by not having babies. If you're truly concerned about high abortion rates, advocate for better sex ed and access to birth control, not slandering those providing needed healthcare to women.

    • let's unpack this  

      Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers offer women an option. They aren't kidnapping expectant mothers and forcing them to abort wanted pregnancies. If a woman decides, for any of a multitude of valid reasons, that she wants to terminate a pregnancy, she is able to avail herself of their services.

      Every one of the people in that 31200 statistic is an individual with their own story and likely complex motivations for wanting an abortion. And you want to take away her agency in that protect her from the "anti-women racists" enabling her freedom to choose? Because you feel you know her situation well enough to assume there are no possible reasons to abort other than Planned Parenthood's agenda--not rape, financial instability, the welfare of other children, an abusive partner, her own health, etc.? I sincerely urge you to reconsider your reasoning, because there are definitely some racist and anti-women sentiments lurking in there, but they're not coming from Planned Parenthood.

      And I second advocating for sex ed and birth control access to reduce the need for abortions. Incidentally, these are services that Planned Parenthood also provides!

      • To clarify PL argument  

        The argument of pro-lifers on this is that the agency of the fetus isn't taken into consideration. Once a fetus exists, they believe it to be its own entity that should have its rights protected.

        • yes, and in that case  

          you should support PP for the _multitude_ of other services they provide, including sex ed, birth control options, pregnancy counseling, etc. PP isn't all about abortions. I think it's very narrow-minded for pro-lifers to refuse to see the good in what PP does for women across the nation every single day, by focusing on the one thing they do that you disagree with.

  13. BC '14

    I find your Allan Bloom reference unconvincing. And I'd bet that only a small part of women who rely on Planned Parenthood are Jewish and Muslim.

  14. catholic and pro-choice senior  

    I'm so sick of hearing people trashing this choice of speaker. Graduation isn't about Cecile Richards or Patti Smith or any other medalist; it's about you & me and the accomplishments that we've made over the past four years in a highly competitive & rigorous environment. As far as I'm concerned, Richards was invited because she will be honoring us & her speech will be encouraging, not controversial. So if you want to wallow in the fact that she doesn't align with your political or religious views (let's be real - the world is not always going to agree with you regardless of what you might think) and let it ruin your graduation, that's your prerogative. But, I think it might be wise of you to honor yourself & forget about that because the real matter at hand is that you've earned this diploma, & you're going to get it!

    [In addition, I agree with most of what has been said by those people with knowledge of Planned Parenthood above. The number of services including mammograms and cervical cancer screenings that Planned Parenthood provides to women far exceeds that of the abortions they perform. For a group of supposedly top tier intelligent people, some people at this school are incredibly ignorant. Also, for the record, pro-choice does not mean pro- abortion.]

  15. Again

    why is bwog convering barnard stuff? i thought this was a columbia blog

  16. West Borough Baptist


  17. RePete  

    Celebrating the slaughter of innocent children, how nice. You twits should be so proud of yourselves, this makes you officially morally reprehensible, as well as evil. You all make me sick to my stomach.

  18. Junior

    Whew-glad I'm not graduating this year. There's still hope for a good speaker.

  19. Anonymous  

    i just really hope she talks about her mom if only a little

  20. anon

    It would be significantly more productive for "pro-lifers" to look into alleviating the structural factors that correspond to high abortion rates in certain communities instead of condemning the services that facilitate them (or ignoring the agency of the women who choose the operation).

    • RePete  

      I agree, and we try, but when we do we are accused of promoting "religion" or an "unworkable" agenda. Whenever abstinence is suggested it is scoffed at (even though there is scientific data that shows this approach works). Sex education in schools is the complete purview of the left and leftist ideology, stop screaming about a separation of church and state and be willing to work on realistic solutions to attain the end you mention above and drop idiots like Sandra Fluke from the conversation. Sluts will never be considered valid by us on the right, we choose to hold individuals accountable for their behavior.

  21. Pro-Life Feminist  

    RePete, I am as socially conservative as you seem to be, but I would ask you to retract your last sentence. Pro-life ideology cannot revolve around the stigmatization of women.

    • RePete  

      AAAARRRRRRGGGHHH! Okay, I won't retract it, but I regret using the word "slut", I understand that it doesn't move the dialogue forward, and for that I apologize. That said, I will reword it this way; women AND men who choose to live overly sexually active lives lose credibility with the political right because we don't think that those that make extremely poor decisions should be provided with an easy way out at the expense of an innocent life. So, Pro-life feminist, thanks you for calling me on my unhelpful language, I stand corrected and apologize.

      • RePete  

        sex is fun. consensual sex with birth control and condoms is fun. consensual sex with birth control and condoms does not equate to extremely poor decisions... the only reason you think sex is bad is because you made that shit up.

        go get laid, and then kindly step off your high white horse of inconsequential and pointless puritanical chastity. preferably into a big pile of shit.

        p.s. if someone's credibility declines in your eyes because they're sexually active, then you're clearly not capable of judging a person's credibility. also no one gives a shit about what a bunch of uptight, hypocritical bigoted right-wingers think about our sex lives. focus on something more productive. and don't ever call a woman a slut. :)

  22. RePete  

    Yeah, spoken like a true 20 year old, complete with childish witticisms and assumptions. Guess what, actions have consequences, and your "fun" can end in the death of an innocent child. Once you enter the real world you will, hopefully, come to realize that it is not all about YOU, and YOU having "fun". I shudder to think how disappointed your parents must be in you, to have such a self-centered child, I truly feel bad for them. Then again, I don't suppose you ramble on so disrespectfully about your "fun" while they are present, as is the case with most of those with world views like yours; you have two or more "personas" that you display, given to whatever company you may be in. Just so you know, your "fun" can only be had because of me, and those like me, who are willing to go to foreign lands and protect you from those that would cut your head off for you doing what I only chastise you for. Never call a woman a slut? Guess what, I'll call whomever, whatever I like, whenever I feel like it, here or to their face, and there is not a thing that they, or you, can do about it. Get laid? That's your advice? You're an idiot. Actually what's "fun" for me is kicking the living shit out of disrespectful people like you, but I stopped doing it because it's pretty unfair to persecute the stupid. So if I can stop slapping morons like you around, I'm sure you can keep your slutty little legs closed so you don't get to go have the thrill of killing an innocent child, you sick, twisted deviant turd.

  23. Charlie Kelly  

    As an abortion survivor myself, I find this highly offensive. You know there was a time where I’d help you raise this little dumpster baby brother of mine like a son. But that’s gone now ’cause you ruined it. You threw your babies away. And you threw your swords away. You threw your golf clubs and your tasty treats and I’m in love with a man … a man named God. Does that make me gay? Am I gay for God? You betcha.

    I hope this makes sense. I'm illiterate.

  24. mom of 3

    So nice to know that the speaker at my daughter's college considered her and all the other young women to be disposable medical waste only moments prior to birth. Check your facts. PP does not offer mammograms and overcharges the govt. for birth control. Also, google PP and lawsuits and you will see how they break laws and put $ first. They make big bucks for what they do and a very high % of aborted babies are minorities. Personally, I volunteer at a pregnancy support center where we offer long-term physical and emotional help in a loving and non-judgmental environment. We see women change their lives for the better and we do it for FREE-try that at PP.

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