Name the Commencement Speaker

by Roger Alford

Based on this excerpt, can you guess the identity of this famous commencement speaker?

More than any other generation of Americans, yours is tasked with resolving challenges that lie far beyond your doorstep — even far beyond America’s borders. Between cell phones and the Internet, you have a world of information literally at your fingertips. And because our world is so small, you can’t ignore the genocide in Darfur, or the human-rights abuses in Burma. You can’t turn away as pandemic diseases torment an entire continent. And you can’t look aside as American communities lie in ruin….

You care for the homeless at three missions on Skid Row. You cheer the elderly through “Senior Connections.” Hundreds of … students participate in Project Serve, your alternative spring break. Through your school’s Volunteer Center, you gave almost 55,000 hours of service just this last year. Every September, 1,400 … students participate in “Step Forward Day.” You join alumni across the country, and come together as one … community — united through acts of service….

You’re here today because of the teachers who believed in you. And across our country, the next generation of students waits for teachers who will believe in them. In fact, the Department of Education estimates that our country will need another 2 million teachers over the next decade….

Class of 2007, help families devastated by Katrina come home to a revitalized Gulf Coast. The region has a special need for teachers and medical professionals, especially nurses. But it doesn’t matter what career you’re pursuing. This summer, before you start a new job or graduate school, travel to the Gulf Coast and help with the reconstruction. Later, dedicate a vacation to the recovery. It will be time well spent.

Think about the long-term opportunities to help. Even before Hurricane Katrina, many residents of Mississippi and Louisiana were denied the promise of America. Now the Gulf Coast has a chance for a fresh start. It will be brighter if young, adventurous Americans establish their careers, their families, and their lives there. The work you do during the week will revitalize the Gulf Coast economy. And in your quiet hours, you’ll invest in the community by working for justice and equality, by building schools and sharing your time and love with neighbors who still grieve….

Class of 2007, serve abroad by fighting pandemic disease in Africa. Help to eradicate malaria — a treatable and preventable illness that kills over a million people every year. Commit to defeating HIV/AIDS — one of the greatest humanitarian crises of all times. Around the world, nearly 40 million people are infected with AIDS. Twenty-six million of them are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa….

The United States government and generous philanthropists are bringing clean water to Africa through the PlayPumps Alliance. PlayPumps are children’s merry-go-rounds attached to a water pump and a storage tank. When the wheel turns, clean drinking water is produced. PlayPumps are fueled by a limitless source of energy: children at play.

The alliance will provide clean drinking water to as many as 10 million Africans by 2010. Each of you can help us reach our goal of building 4,000 PlayPumps through the “100 Pumps in 100 Days” campaign. You can learn more about this nationwide effort by visiting , which has 100 ideas for bringing clean water to Africa.

Here’s Idea Number 101: support your classmates who are already confronting this challenge. Last year, eight members of the Class of 2007 established Wishing Well, a project to build water pumps in Africa.

One of your classmates, Mushambi Mutuma … is excited about working for Wishing Well after graduation. “There’s so many problems with Africa that are so hard to fix,” Mushambi says. “They require either U.N. peacekeepers, or trained scientists. But with clean water, it’s so simple. It’s something all of us can do, even college students. We can go to a village and build a water well, and we know things are going to be better than they were.”

Class of 2007, you’ve received the blessings of your time [here]. Now it’s time to freely give. Use your talent and energy to make a better world for people throughout our country and across the globe. You’ll find happiness along the way.

And the name of the commencement speaker is….

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