News and Analysis

Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:00 p.m.

Brian Williams selected as Commencement speaker

Brian Williams, who hails from New Jersey like many of his Colonial cohorts, will headline the University Commencement Ceremony in May. Photo by David Shankbone and used under Creative Commons.

The University will announce Thursday that a longtime NBC anchor and one of the world’s most-watched journalists will headline the University Commencement Ceremony May 20.

Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University, more than 30 years after he originally left college degree-less to work for President Jimmy Carter.

His coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s aftermath earned his high-praise, including an accolade from Vanity Fair which called him ” Murrow-worthy,” after the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian Williams back to George Washington. As an accomplished journalist, a student of history and participant in global activities, Brian Williams is an inspiration to our students,” Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles said. “Commencement at GW is like no other in the country and we look forward to a memorable event for all involved.”

The former White House correspondent said that leaving college – he briefly attended Brookdale Community College, Catholic University and GW – was one of his “great regrets.”

During his 31-year career, Williams has earned 11 Edward R. Murrow Awards, 12 Emmy Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and the George Foster Peabody Award.

In 2010, Williams spoke at the University of Notre Dame’s Commencement where he called on the graduating class to step up and solve national crises like poverty, obesity and education.

Williams marks a break from a recent tradition of tapping politicians to speak to the estimated 20,000 graduates and families at Commencement. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent off the graduating class of 2011 with jokes last year, first lady Michelle Obama headlined the event in 2010 and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked for students to put “all-hands-on-deck” for America in his 2009 speech.

  • Gchecked

    Another Liberal Commencement Speaker! SURPRISE!

  • Steve

    Great, really looking forward to the 45 minute snooze-fest.

  • jfjfjfjfjfjfjf

    Why not former President Bush Sr. or Jr. … or President Clinton or Sec. Clinton or CEO of Facebook or Goldman Sachs?? They always use the political liberal instead using someone who will attract listeners

  • Leslie

    As a liberal from California coming out to see my cousin graduate, I am very pleased and excited! Brian Williams will have a lot of great experiences to share. Be grateful you went to a university that would attract an interesting speaker, liberal or not.

  • Pyro311

    In response to jfjf’s question, allow me to answer. The CEO of Facebook is busy promoting an IPO, the CEO of Goldman Sachs is busy trying to avoid the SEC, President Bush Sr. doesn’t care about you. Newsflash, neither does his son.

    President Clinton is smoking pot and playing on the saxaphone with his wife. He’s got better things to do….thanks.

  • mike

    to Pyro311, I doubt that Bill is playing on the saxophone with his wife. Go down the hill and axe her.

  • PW

    “In 2010, Williams spoke at the University of Notre Dame’s Commencement where he called on the graduating class to step up and solve national crises like poverty, obesity and education.”

    Yeah, Gchecked and jfjfjfjfjfjfjf, you’re probably right. Mr. Williams is just another lefty, going around proselytizing his liberal agenda, like promoting education and fighting poverty, at notoriously left-wing institutions like Notre Dame University. I guess being thoughtful and compassionate just doesn’t cut it anymore for some folks.

  • mike

    Ya know, GW will probably get a bit of good national exposure for its graduation ceremony. Typically, NBC puts together a nice collage of commencement addresses which appears at the end of its evening news sometimes in May and June. I gotta think that a few words from Brian Williams will make it into the presentation. It’s actually a very nicely done piece of work. I look forward to seeing it every year.

  • Someone who will be skipping graduation

    How is it that some random small college like Barnard can get Obama to speak but we cannot get him to walk a block to speak at our graduation?

  • Eww

    Im so bummed out. Don’t want to attend graduation anymore.

  • Pretty solid choice

    I think people are giving the wrong reaction to this choice. If you’ve seen Brian Williams on SNL, 30 Rock or The Daily Show you know he’s pretty funny and has a quick wit. Even though I’m not graduating this year I think this is a really strong speaker. He’s one of the most respected journalists in the world and he asks tough questions. Look, Bloomberg threw in a few jokes in his address last year and I’ve never heard people saying “Oh Bloomberg is just hilarious”. I’m optimistic about Williams.

  • Robin

    I hope a few graduates walk out during his speech. I think some protests would be in order, helped stir the media mob mentality for Trayvone and a year ago heaped blame on Palin for the Giffords tragedy. Palin was political but the NBC role in editing the 911 tapes to stir racial hatred goes beyond the pale of reporting news – it was appalling. Doesn’t Mr Williams make those decisions on what to air. If I were an alumni – I’d stop making donations if he speaks.

  • B

    Visiting to watch my brother graduate and very excited about this. BW is f’ing hilarious.

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