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Veteran Journalist Gwen Ifill, Honorees, Challenge 2009 Graduates

WASHINGTON – More than 2,500 graduates received their degrees during the University’s 141st Commencement, including 97 who earned doctoral degrees. Oratrix Gwen Ifill urged the first graduating class of the Obama era to breakdown existing barriers.

“You don’t have to be bound by your race, or by other people’s perception of what it means that you are who you are,” Ifill said. “You have the responsibility to do this opportunity justice. Let your work speak for itself.”

Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week,” received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. She is the author of the bestseller “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” and moderated the vice presidential debates during the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008.

President Sidney A. Ribeau, who presided over his first commencement, also presented honorary degrees to four distinguished national and international leaders in fields including business, education, government, and the arts.

The recipients were Johnnetta Betsch Cole Ph.D., director of the National Museum of African Art, Doctor of Humane Letters; Laurence John Fishburne III, critically acclaimed actor, producer and director, Doctor of Humanities; His Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former president of the Republic of Botswana, Doctor of Laws; and Ronald A. Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna Inc., Doctor of Humanities.

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