Commencement Orator

The Honorable William E. Kennard
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
Doctor of Laws

Biographical Note

The Honorable William E. Kennard is a “consumer champion for the digital world” and the nation’s top telecommunications regulator. Nominated as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by President Clinton in August of 1997, he was confirmed by the U. S. Senate on October 29, 1997, and sworn in by Vice President Gore on November 7, 1997. As Chairman of the FCC, Mr. Kennard is committed to creating open marketplaces where competition can thrive and innovation can flourish. He believes that a robust marketplace will produce better services for our nation’s consumers.

Mr. Kennard plays a pivotal role in democratizing the Internet Age. 
Mr. Kennard’s chairmanship comes during one of the most exciting times in the history of telecommunications, a time when the country is moving from a world of monopoly to a world of competition, from an analog age to a digital one, and from an era of basic services to an era of convergence.

With Mr. Kennard at the helm as Chairman, the Commission passed strict new rules to protect consumers against “slammers”, those who illegally switch a person’s phone service without his or her permission, and levied the largest fine in FCC history against a “slammer”. Also under his leadership, the E-rate program has wired thousands of schools and libraries to the Internet. Mr. Kennard is also a tireless advocate for the 54 million Americans with disabilities, working with industry, engineers, and consumer groups to make sure that the technologies of tomorrow and the opportunities that they represent can be used to better the lives of all Americans. He also successfully defended the core-market-opening provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 from constitutional attacks. He is credited with taking the lead in removing unnecessary and burdensome regulations and in streamlining the way in which FCC itself operates.

The FCC’s first African-American chairman, Mr. Kennard has transformed the Federal Communications Commission to make sure all Americans will benefit from the communications revolution. He is steadfastly committed to ensuring that all Americans—not only those in the suburbs, but those in the inner cities; not only the privileged and advantaged, but the disadvantaged and those with disabilities; and not only those who live in our cities, but those who live in our countryside—have access to the technologies that are driving our economy and shaping our society.

A native of Los Angeles, California, Chairman Kennard graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1978 and received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1981. Before joining the FCC, he was a partner and member of the board of directors of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson, and Hand, Chartered. Prior to becoming Chairman, he was the FCC’s General Counsel.

Chairman Kennard is married to Deborah Diane Kennedy, and they have one son, James.