Actress and activist Issa Rae ’07 and physician Atul Gawande ’87 to speak at 2021 commencement ceremonies

May 26, 2021, 9:15 p.m.

Physician and author Atul Gawande ’87 and activist and current lead actress of “Insecure” Issa Rae ‘07 will be speaking at this year’s commencement ceremonies on June 12 and June 13 respectively. 

Rae’s journey “will be a much needed and very appreciated inspirational narrative as we begin the next chapter in life,” Stanford Senior Class Presidents Johnathan Bridges, Celine Foster, Virginia Miller, Jordan Oakes and David Pantera told Stanford News. 

Rae, who will be speaking at the undergraduate commencement ceremony, has been producing films since college, including “Dorm Diaries”, a mockumentary about Black life at Stanford. For her work, Rae has earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, was named on Time magazine’s 2018 list of 100 influential people and appeared twice in Forbes’ 30 under 30. Beyond her award-winning productions, Rae has also used her platform to speak up about civil and women’s rights.

The three Baccalaureate ceremony student speakers are Gracie Newman ’21, an English major on the creative writing prose track; Alice Ballard-Rossiter, a management science & engineering major; and Chidinma Agbo, a product design major.

Gawande, current professor at Harvard Medical School and best-selling author of books like Being Mortal, served on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Transition Team. He will speak at the graduate and professional degree commencement ceremony.

Provost Persis Drell told Stanford News that Gawande is “uniquely positioned to reflect on the lessons of the past year” and how current students can utilize their talents “to help humanity emerge strongly from the pandemic and make the world a better place.” 

The in-person ceremonies will be held outdoors at Stanford Stadium and limited to graduates and invited guests. They will also be livestreamed and uploaded for public viewing. Attendees will be required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing, and Stanford is requiring that guests and students traveling from outside California be fully vaccinated. Graduating students currently living on campus and guests from California should be fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

Victoria Hsieh '24 is a Desk Editor for the Business and Technology Desk looking to major in Computer Science and minor in Political Science. She is from Seattle and thereby a caffeine and hiking fanatic. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’

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