Media Relations

2009 Commencement Speakers

Commencement Cap

More than 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students participated in American University commencement events on Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10, in the university’s Bender Arena. Individual commencement ceremonies were held for each school.

During its 123rd commencement, AU honored a dedicated public servant, a Wall Street executive, the founding director of a long-awaited national museum, an international human rights activist, and a prominent journalist with the conferral of  honorary doctoral degrees to commencement speakers Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.); Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of the CBS news magazine 48 Hours; Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and John Prendergast, cofounder of the Enough Project. Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, spoke but did not receive an honorary degree. Zirinsky, Bunch, Prendergast, and Cohn are AU alums.

School of Public Affairs Ceremony

American University's 123rd commencement began with the School of Public Affairs ceremony and speaker Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Click here to read the full transcript of Rep. Frank's speech.

Also recognized at the ceremony were student award recipients David Teslicko (Cathryn Seckler-Hudson Award), Carrie Johnson (Fletcher Scholar Award), Justin Bibb (Bruce Hughes Award), Amanda Fulton (Kinsman-Hurst Award), Bill DeBaun (Charles W. Van Way Award). Carrie Johnson was also recognized with the university's highest honor, the 2009 President's Award.

School of Communication Ceremony

Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of 48 Hours, delivered the second commencement address of the day at the School of Communication ceremony. Zirinsky talked about the seismic change occuring in journalism today, but opened by asking students to say, "I will get a job."

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech.

College of Arts and Sciences Ceremony

Lonnie Bunch, former American University professor and founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture delivered the commencement address for more than 400 graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech.

Honored at the ceremony were student award recipients Josh Levitz (Outstanding Leadership at the Undergraduate Level), Casey Roe (Outstanding Service to the University Community), Irene Schickhardt (Stafford H. Cassell Award), Katie Beran (Harold Johnson Award), and Joseph Berman (Evelyn Swartbout Hayes Award).

Kogod School of Business Ceremony

Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, opened the second day of AU's 123rd commencement, addressing the graduates of the Kogod School of Business. A graduate of Kogod, Cohn drew parallels between the state of the economy today and when he graduated in 1982. He told students, despite the economy, with passion and hard work they will succeed.

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech.


Student awards were presented to Anthony Edwards (Charles C. Glover Award) and Mario Beltran (Carlton Savage Award).


School of International Service Ceremony

John Prendergast, an AU School of International Service alum and cofounder of the Enough Project--an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity--spoke to more than 450 SIS graduates to close out American University's 123rd commencement ceremonies.

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech.