U.S. Secretary of State to Speak at Commencement

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UC Berkeley senior class officials have lined up the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - to speak at a classwide commencement ceremony next week.

Albright is the scheduled keynote speaker at the Class of 2000 Commencement Convocation on May 10, the only graduation ceremony to include all departing students. Because Albright is expected to generate a high turnout, the event will be held at the 8000-seat Greek Theater.

The Senior Class Council, a student organization charged with finding commencement speakers and coordinating social events, invited Albright to campus last fall, but did not receive confirmation of her attendance until February. Lisa Delehunt, the group's president, said her persistent calls to Albright's office paid off.

"(Albright) is a phenomenal woman who represents all the ideals of Berkeley, and I think the seniors are very fortunate to be able to have her at commencement," Delehunt said. "It's very remarkable for Cal."

When the Senior Class Council met last summer and brainstormed possible speakers, Albright was at the top of their list, along with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton. Albright was also a popular choice in senior class surveys.

"We wanted someone who has made major contributions to the society, and who will serve as an inspiration to the graduates," said Yuwynn Eldwin Ho, who chaired the council's commencement committee. "We were aware of the significance of the year 2000, and made it our goal to plan a commencement that truly fits our class motto of 'Once in a Millennium.'"

Although graduation exercises are divided up by department, the May 10 convocation offers all graduating seniors a chance to celebrate as a class.

"It's an opportunity for friends of the graduating class to be together even though they may have different disciplines," said Jim Burk, executive director of the California Alumni Association, which sponsors the Senior Class Council.

Burk said the council deserves credit for landing such a high-profile speaker.

"This is a group of students that are in leadership roles and they've done a wonderful job making contact with her office and encouraging her to come," he said. "We're very proud of them."

Burk said he only hopes an international crisis does not thwart Albright's plans.

"We're very hopeful that things stay calm in the world so she can fulfill her engagement with us," he said. "We've had distinguished visitors before, but this is obviously an important person at a time in the world when she is constantly called from one place to another."

Albright's status has required commencement planners to be in constant contact with the Secret Service and the White House, but Burk said the arrangements have not been unusually taxing.

"It's been no more difficult than you would expect," he said. "Whenever you have a person like this, there's always going to be a security issue. But her office and the advance people have been very good to work with."

Past commencement speakers have included author Terry McMillan and comedian Bill Cosby.

"Bill Cosby was a big draw of a different sort," Burk said. "This will be a more serious address."

Other speakers at this year's event include Chancellor Robert Berdahl and former State Assemblymember Jerome Waldie, who graduated from UC Berkeley 50 years ago.


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