Kwame Anthony Appiah to Speak at Occidental Commencement

Kwame Anthony Appiah, internationally known philosopher, cultural theorist, and author, will deliver the commencement address at Occidental College's 125th anniversary graduation ceremony on May 20.


Joining Appiah in receiving honorary degrees will be four distinguished Occidental alumni in the fields of public service, business, science, and journalism: Ruth Coleman ‘82, director of California State Parks since 1999; Steve Cooper '68, one of the country's leading corporate turnaround experts; Diane Evans ‘76, director for JPL's Earth Science and Technology Directorate; and radio-television-newspaper journalist Patt Morrison.

Currently Laurance S. Rockefeller University professor of philosophy at Princeton University, Appiah has been placed on lists of the world's most powerful thinkers and top public intellectuals by Forbes and Foreign Policy. He is also the President of the PEN American Center, the internationally acclaimed literary and human rights association.

President Barack Obama '83 presented him with the National Humanities Medal on Feb. 13 "for seeking eternal truths in the contemporary world. His books and essays within and beyond his academic discipline have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities."

Born in London and raised in Ghana, Appiah earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Cambridge University in England and has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities and lectured around the world.

His life and work ignore conventional boundaries, re-imagine the idea of identity, and engage questions of what it means to be a citizen of the world. His influential book Cosmopolitanism (2006) challenges readers to look beyond the boundaries -- real and imagined -- that divide countries, nations, and peoples, and to see our common humanity.

"We wanted someone who can speak to the value of the liberal arts tradition on the occasion of the college's 125th anniversary," said Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. "Professor Appiah does that with a grace and eloquence that has justifiably earned him a reputation as one of the leading philosophers in the United States and beyond. As a scholar of globalization, he also can speak to Occidental's efforts to internationalize our campus."

Occidental's 2012 Commencement ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 20 in the Remsen Bird Hillside Theater on the Occidental campus.