Maxine Waters, Stacey Abrams among political stars in demand for graduation speeches

Maxine Waters, Stacey Abrams among political stars in demand for graduation speeches
© Stefani Reynolds

Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching MORE (D-Calif.), former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (D) and several presidential candidates are among the big names in politics addressing students at graduations this year.

Along with traditionally in-demand speakers like President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies MORE, this year's crop of commencement speakers reflect a country inching closer to the highly anticipated 2020 presidential race.

A number of universities have already announced Democratic presidential candidates as commencement speakers in recent months, picking from a field that has now grown to more than 20.

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Two Democratic presidential hopefuls — New Jersey Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall MORE and New York Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE — have secured commencement opportunities at colleges located in key primary states.

Former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), who surged to popularity last year in a nail-biter Senate race against Republican Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE in Texas, also spoke at the Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically black college in Texas, on May 4.

Below is a list of notable political figures who will be delivering commencement addresses in the coming weeks.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) – South Carolina State University, May 10

Booker will serve as the commencement speaker for South Carolina State University's spring graduating class on Friday. Last year, the senator spoke at Temple University's commencement ceremony.

South Carolina State, a historically black university, praised Booker for policies that it said advances "economic and equal justice -- including leading efforts to reform the broken criminal justice system, increase wages, ensure hard work is fairly rewarded and protect the rights of all Americans to breathe clean air and drink clean water."

Stacey Abrams – American University, May 11

Abrams will be delivering the commencement address for the graduating class of American University in the nation’s capital. The school said she will also be receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

American University President Sylvia M. Burwell said that Abrams "is the embodiment of a big thinker with bold ideas" and said it “is both an honor and a privilege to welcome her to our campus to deliver the School of Public Affairs commencement address."

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) – University of the District of Columbia, May 11

The California congresswoman will be addressing the graduating class of University of the District of Columbia this week. The address for the historically black university has been titled, “Making Black History.” Waters spoke at the Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School Of Law last year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) – New England College, May 11

The New York senator will speak at the commencement ceremony for New England College's graduating class. The university praised Gillibrand for "leading the fight to reform the justice system for sexual assault survivors in the military and on college campuses" in a release announcing the senator as the college's 2019 commencement speaker.

New England College President Michele D. Perkins said she was "delighted" the senator agreed to speak at the college's ceremony and called her "a leader in some of the toughest fights in Washington."

Vice President Pence – Liberty University, May 11

Pence will address the graduating class of Liberty University through a video conference from Washington, D.C., to the school’s campus in Lynchburg, Va., this week. The ceremony will be held in university’s Vines Center, which was also the satellite location for the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The vice president will also speak to 2019 graduating class of Taylor University next weekend in Indiana.

In 2017, Pence also delivered the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, where a group of graduating students walked out during his remarks to protest Trump administration policies.

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Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine) – Husson University, May 11

The Maine senator will be speaking at Husson University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday in Bangor. She addressed the graduating class of Colby College last year.

Husson University President Robert A. Clark praised Collins for “constantly working to transform the lives of the people of Maine” and said her “insights into the importance of positive change, and the need to work with others, make her insights critically important during these difficult times.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – Manhattan College, May 17

The justice will deliver the commencement address for the graduating class of Manhattan College next week. During the ceremony, Sotomayor will also receive an honorary degree. Sotomayor, a Bronx native, will be the first sitting justice to speak at the New York college.

Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergFirefighter who died in 9/11 honored again after remains identified Ted Cruz fires back at Lori Lightfoot: 'Mayor, your anger is misplaced' Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature MORE – Washington University, May 17

Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor, will be speaking at Washington University’s 2019 graduation ceremony in St. Louis next weekend. Last year, Bloomberg served as commencement speaker at Rice University's graduation ceremony.

Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton called Bloomberg “one of our most creative and innovative leaders” and said he has “no doubt that he will deliver a Commencement address that will leave our graduates inspired and motivated to make their own impact on the world.”

Madeleine Albright – Bucknell University, May 19

The former secretary of State will be the commencement speaker for the graduating class of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

Bucknell President John Bravman praised Albright's “life of courageous service” in a statement and added that her legacy “has not only left an indelible mark on the world in which we live, but it is also a profound example of what one can achieve when equipped with the critical-thinking skills, creativity and intellectual curiosity associated with a broad education."

Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same CBC marks 400th anniversary of slaves' arrival in US GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid MORE (D-Ga.) – Framingham State University, May 26

The Georgia congressman and civil rights icon will deliver the commencement address at Framingham State University in Massachusetts later this month.

Framingham State President F. Javier Cevallos said he can “think of no one else more qualified to show our graduates what it means to live a life that is dedicated to doing good for others," saying: "As a leader during the Civil Rights Movement, and a voice for the vulnerable and oppressed during his more than 30 years in the House of Representatives, Congressman Lewis is a true inspiration to our students, faculty and staff."

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.) – San Francisco State University, May 28

Pelosi will deliver the commencement address to the 2019 graduating class of San Francisco State University. Last year, she spoke to the class of graduates at Mount Holyoke College.

San Francisco State University honored Pelosi for “having made history in 2007 when she was elected the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House” and for representing San Francisco’s 12th District in Congress for the past 31 years.

Hillary Clinton – Hunter College, May 29

The former secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will deliver the commencement address to graduates at Hunter College at Madison Square Garden. During the ceremony, Clinton will also be awarded the college’s inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Leadership Award for her achievements in public service. Last year, Clinton spoke to the graduating class of Yale University.

“For more than a generation, she has been at the forefront of progressive change, including change for women, which is an essential part of Hunter’s history. I’m confident she will be a messenger of inspiration and hope for our students,” Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab said of Clinton.

President Trump – U.S. Air Force Academy, May 30

The president will be speaking to the 2019 graduating class at the U.S. Air Force Academy's graduation in Colorado Springs, Colo., later this month. Last year, the president delivered the commencement address at the Naval Academy and spoke at the Coast Guard Academy’s graduation the year before.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Harvard University, May 30

The German chancellor will be speaking at Harvard University’s graduation ceremony later this month in Massachusetts. She will also receive an honorary degree from the school.

Harvard President Larry Bacow called Merkel "one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time" and said "over her four terms as Germany’s chancellor, her leadership has done much to shape the course not only of her nation, but also of Europe and the larger world.”

Anita HillAnita Faye HillClinton celebrates first visibly pregnant CEO to be on business magazine cover Anita Hill: I could see myself voting for Biden over Trump Bill Maher: Buttigieg a 'little too young' to be president MORE – Wellesley College, May 31

The Brandeis University professor of social policy who captured the country’s attention in 1991 during her congressional testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas will be the commencement speaker for the 2019 graduating class of Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat MORE, who's running for the White House, has faced criticism over his treatment of Hill as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Thomas's nomination. Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley College, said Hill “exemplifies moral courage” and added that “throughout her career, she has spoken truth to power, reminding us of the impact that a single voice can have.”