State Supreme Court Judge, renowned activist to speak at graduation ceremonies

Feb. 22, 2017, 1:10 a.m.

California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar Ph.D. ’00 and renowned civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman will be the 2017 Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers, respectively.

The Stanford senior class presidents revealed the speakers in an email to the Class of 2017 on Tuesday morning. In their message, the presidents — Teodoro Lallana Camacho VI ’17, Julia Olson ’17, Eddy Rosales ’17 and Anna Wang ’17 — stressed celebrating the diversity of the Stanford community as one of the most important aspects of both ceremonies.

“Amongst all the privileges and advantages that come with being a Stanford student, the diversity of our community stands out,” they wrote. “Our community’s diversity of nationality, race, gender, economic background and identity have enriched our undergraduate experience beyond what could be learned in the classroom. With this in mind, it seems essential that our graduation speakers also embody our diversity.

State Supreme Court Judge, renowned activist to speak at graduation ceremonies
California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar will speak at this year’s Commencement ceremony (Courtesy of Rod Searcey).

Cuéllar received his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford and was the University’s Stanley Morrison Professor of Law from 2001 to 2015. At Stanford, he led the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and worked on issues such as global poverty, nuclear security research and global health.

Cuéllar also served in the Obama and Clinton administrations at various times throughout his career, which has focused on education and public service. His accomplishments in federal government include co-chairing the 2008-09 presidential transition team on issues such as immigration, borders and refugees, setting up the Equal Pay Task Force and co-chairing the Department of Education’s National Equity and Excellence Commission.

In their email Tuesday, the Class of 2017 presidents wrote that Cuéllar’s “dedication to truth-seeking was inspiring, and his willingness to pursue unexpected career paths in the interest of self-growth was aspirational.”

“We hope that our graduates will be inspired by his life and sense of purpose and how he has used his scholarly achievements to improve the lives of others,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne told Stanford News.

State Supreme Court Judge, renowned activist to speak at graduation ceremonies
Renowned activist Marian Wright Edelman will speak at Baccalaureate (Courtesy of the Children’s Defense Fund).

Edelman will speak at Baccalaureate, a gathering for graduating seniors, graduate students and families organized by the Office for Religious Life. The multi-faith celebration, which recognizes the cultural diversity of the student body, will take place the day before Commencement, the actual graduation ceremony.

Edelman has spent her career advocating for women, children and the disadvantaged. She is currently president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a non-profit organization she founded in 1973 that protects the interests of children — particularly poor and disabled children and children of color. After graduating from Spelman College and Yale Law School, she became the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. In the late 1960s, she served as a counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign, a project that Martin Luther King Jr. worked on before his assassination.

“[Edelman] will be a wonderful capstone for our Stanford years marked with civil discourse and activism,” wrote the Class of 2017 presidents. “We celebrate her diversity, welcome her distinct perspective to campus and are excited for her speech at Baccalaureate.”

Edelman’s accolades include a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also founded the Washington Research Project, the non-profit parent organization of the CDF.


Contact Veronica Kim at vkim70 ‘at’

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