Samantha Power to Speak at Occidental Commencement

Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harvard professor, and outspoken advocate for human rights, will be the featured speaker at Occidental College's 129th commencement ceremony on May 15.


As special assistant to President Barack Obama '83 and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights for the National Security Council, Power is a key presidential advisor who has helped shape the U.S. response to the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

"In her remarkable and rapid transition from journalist, author and academic to foreign policy advisor to the president, Samantha Power is a model for students who wish to have a voice in the public arena and to make history. Many Oxy graduates share her commitment to human rights and strive for such relevant careers," said Ambassador Derek Shearer, Occidental's Chevalier Professor of World Affairs and Diplomacy. "It is both fitting and an honor to have Samantha Power speak at our Commencement."

"We couldn't be more pleased to have Samantha Power as our graduation speaker," said Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. "She told me over the phone that she is thrilled to be coming to Oxy."

Her book "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide (New Republic Books), based on her reporting as a freelance journalist in Bosnia, was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. She went on to report on the ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of Sudan for The New Yorker, and became a foreign policy columnist for Time Magazine.

"She is clearly the foremost voice for human rights within the White House, and she has Obama's ear," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times last month.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has taken a leave of absence from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, to work for the Obama administration. She was the founding executive director of the school's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

Her most recent book, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World, a biography of the U.N. envoy killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2003, was published by Penguin in 2008.