Stacey Abrams named Emory University's 2019 Class Day speaker

March 18, 2019

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Stacey Abrams has been named keynote speaker for Emory University’s Class Day, a student-organized event for students receiving bachelor’s degrees at this year’s commencement. Photo courtesy of Stacey Abrams.

Stacey Abrams has been named keynote speaker for Emory University’s Class Day, a student-organized event for students receiving bachelor’s degrees at this year’s commencement.

Abrams, Democratic nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, is the first African-American woman selected as a major party gubernatorial nominee in the country’s history. Last month, Abrams became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to a presidential State of the Union address. 

“The Class Day committee is incredibly excited to welcome Stacey Abrams to campus,” says Abbey Kelly, an Emory senior and member of the 2019 Class Day selection committee. “During the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, Emory students from all backgrounds practiced civic engagement through campaigning, activism and voter drives. Ms. Abrams’ story speaks to important themes such as the importance of education, resilience and community building, and we cannot wait to hear the wisdom she imparts to the Class of 2019.”

“I’m excited that our students have selected a speaker who exemplifies public service and reflects our students’ engagement with the world beyond campus. I’m sure that Stacey Abrams will deliver a message that will inspire our graduating seniors,” says Michael A. Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.   

Abrams served 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as house minority leader. She was the first woman to lead either party in the state’s legislature and the first African American to lead in the state’s House of Representatives.

She is the author of “Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change,” published in 2018. Over the course of her career, she has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels.

In 2012, Abrams received the prestigious John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award from the Kennedy Library and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, which honors an elected official under 40 whose work demonstrates the impact of elective public service as a way to address public challenges. A lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she has received recognition from the National Urban League, EMILY’s List, Governing Magazine and the Harry S. Truman Foundation, among others.

Abrams holds a J.D. degree from Yale Law School and a master of public affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Harry F. Truman Scholar. She earned an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies magna cum laude from Spelman College. 

Emory’s Class Day will be held Thursday, May 9, leading into Commencement Weekend, and will also feature a presentation of the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals, along with other senior awards. Students invite the Class Day keynote speaker to share wisdom, humor and advice as they embark on careers in government, business, public service, health care, the arts, technology and beyond.

Past Class Day speakers have included Chelsea Handler, Adam Richman, Kenneth Cole, Mia Farrow, Peyton Manning, Ben & Jerry, Michael Sam and Ryan Gravel.   

Emory’s 174th Commencement is scheduled Monday, May 13, with civil rights icon and humanitarian Andrew Young as keynote speaker.