Filmmaker to Deliver Commencement Speech

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POTS: UC Berkeley's 2010 Commencement Speaker

UC Berkeley has announced Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webbie Awards, as the speaker for the 2010 Commencement.

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Following in the footsteps of Bill Cosby and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, UC Berkeley alumna and award-winning filmmaker Tiffany Shlain will deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010 on May 16.

The threat of union picket lines prevented other possible speakers-including actress Tina Fey and television host Oprah Winfrey-from speaking at the ceremony, according to Misty Ahmadi, a member of the senior class council and vice president of May Commencement.

Shlain, who was the valedictorian speaker for the interdisciplinary studies department when she graduated in 1992 with a degree in film theory and interdisciplinary studies, said the selection was "a great honor."

"It feels really good to come back 18 years later and be asked to give the commencement speech," she said. "I have learned a lot of things I am excited to share with the students."

While she has not finalized her address, she has a surprise in store for graduates. Shlain said she will be asking graduates to participate in a "larger online experiment" that ties into her latest documentary work, "Connected: A Declaration of Interdependence."

"I am going to announce it at the speech," she said. "It's going be fun; it will be an exciting experiment in participation."

The Californians, a student group that plans the commencement ceremonies, were looking for a woman to deliver the address following a long line of male speakers, including motivational guru Christopher Gardner last year and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in 2008, said Nicole Small, senior class council president.

"We would take any speaker that would give us confirmation, but we were looking specifically for a strong woman to speak," Small said.

Actor Danny Glover, a Bay Area resident and the planned commencement speaker for the class of 2007, backed out of the event after stating he would not cross a picket line by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

"We tried to reach out to a really broad range of people ... top of the list was Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, (Supreme Court Justice Sonia) Sotomayor, Michelle Obama," Ahmadi said. "But with the general threat of a picket, many would not confirm."

AFSCME Local 3299 officials did not return repeated requests for comment.


Javier Panzar covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected]

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