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Campus Speakers Run Gamut

Powell, Albright, Sen. Dole among commencement speakers in May

With the war on terrorism ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduates at some area colleges heard firsthand from two individuals who have been involved in policy decisions regarding Iraq and the Middle East.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright highlighted a list of graduation speakers this May at colleges across North Carolina. Powell spoke May 17 at Wake Forest, while Albright spoke May 9 at Duke. Others who spoke during graduation ceremonies included Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

Here is a look at some of the speakers who were featured at commencement exercises in May:

Colin Powell, Wake Forest: Powell’s speech was held in the backdrop of one of the most stringent security plans for any graduation ceremony in the state. Access to Reynolda Campus was limited to vehicles with a commencement parking pass. Those attending graduation ceremonies had to go through a security checkpoint. Graduation ceremonies were not opened to the public, as has been historically the case at Wake Forest.

Powell, who has served as secretary of state since 2001, is a retired Army four-star general and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a position he held during the first Gulf War.

Madeline Albright, Duke: Former Secretary of State Albright spoke to Duke graduates in a ceremony opened to the public.

Albright became the first female U.S. secretary of state when she was sworn into office in 1997. During Albright’s tenure, U.S. military forces, under NATO, were sent to Kosovo, and the United States conducted bombing raids in Iraq in 1998.

Julius Chambers, UNC-Chapel Hill: Former N.C. Central University Chancellor Chambers spoke to UNC-Chapel Hill graduates May 9 at Kenan Stadium. The ceremonies were opened to the public.

Chambers is a civil rights lawyer and an alumnus of UNC-CH, having received his law degree from the School of Law. He graduated in 1958 from N.C. Central. Chambers argued the 1971 Supreme Court case Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which upheld busing as a means of desegregating schools.

He is currently the director of the Center for Civil Rights within the School of Law. The center works toward the advancement of civil rights and social justice in the South, with a focus on education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development, and voting.

Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeil, N.C. State: McNeil, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the U.S. Army at Fort McPherson, Ga., spoke to graduates at N.C. State on May 15 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.

McNeil, an N.C. State alumnus, previously commanded almost all of the U.S. forces and coordinated the efforts of coalition forces from England, Canada, and other allies in the war on terror in Afghanistan.

McNeil graduated from N.C. State in 1968 with a degree in wood technology. He has previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, UNC-Pembroke: Dole, the state’s junior senator, spoke before graduates at UNC-Pembroke on May 8.

A Republican, Dole entered the Senate after defeating Democrat Erskine Bowles in 2002 to succeed Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Dole is a former president of the American Red Cross and secretary of transportation in the Reagan administration. She also served as the secretary of labor in the first Bush administration from 1989 to 1991.

James Earl Jones, N.C. A&T: Jones, an acclaimed actor, spoke May 8 at N.C. A&T’s commencement ceremonies, held at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Jones is best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies. He also provided the voice of “Mufasa” in The Lion King. He also starred in Field of Dreams, The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, Matewan, and other films.

Elizabeth Edwards, Peace College: Edwards, wife of North Carolina senior senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards, D-N.C., spoke to Peace College graduates on May 8. The ceremony was not opened to the pubic.

Edwards is a graduate of UNC-CH School of Law.

Among other area graduation speakers were Wake Forest Provost Edwin Graves Wilson (Campbell University, May 10), Mount Holyoke College English professor Christopher Benfey (Guilford College, May 8), North Carolina Blue Cross & Blue Shield President Robert J. Greczyn Jr. (Mount Olive College, May 8), Millard Fuller, president and founder of Habitat for Humanity (Pfeiffer University, May 8), former North Carolina Republican Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. (St. Andrews Presbyterian College, May 8), and Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space (Winston-Salem State College, May 8).

Shannon Blosser is a contributing editor of Carolina Journal.