Jill Abramson bumped as Barnard commencement speaker

Barnard | The New York Times

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson was scheduled to speak May 14 at Barnard College's commencement, until a bigger name became available. In a letter sent to alumnae Saturday morning, Debora Spar, president of the women's college of Columbia University, announced that President Obama will speak instead. In an interview with The New York Times, Spar asked, "Why did they choose Barnard?" The White House said, "As the father of two daughters, President Obama wanted to speak to some of America’s next generation of women leaders." But there is likely a political reason as well, which the Times reported:

Women’s issues have been taking center stage in this presidential election year, with angry debates on the campaign trail and in Washington over contraception, abortion and women’s roles outside the home.

Abramson "noted that she is happy to speak at Barnard at a later date," Spar said in her letter, which follows.

At the time of the original announcement, Spar said, "We have so many reasons to value Ms. Abramson’s place in history as the first woman to appear at the top of The New York Times masthead ... From her early days as a reporter to her current post as the paper’s executive editor, she has been unfailing in her convictions and a true inspiration. I am certain that our graduates will be energized by her words and personal story.” Abramson is a graduate of Harvard, but her mother, Dovie Abramson, graduated from Barnard in 1939.

Spar's letter:

Dear Barnard Alumnae,

I have exciting news to report. Each year, President Obama selects a small number of schools at which to deliver commencement addresses. This year, the President has chosen Barnard College and will address our senior class on May 14th. This is a great honor for the College and a testament to the collective achievement of all Barnard graduates, especially the Class of 2012.

Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, was previously announced as the keynote speaker and has noted that she is happy to speak at Barnard at a later date.

It will be a thrill for all of us to welcome President Obama and hear his words. We will be broadcasting the speech and the entire ceremony live, via webcast, on the College’s website.

As ever, we look forward to celebrating the spectacular achievements of the Class of 2012 on May 14th.

Debora Spar


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