Albright, Powell highlight N.C.graduation speakers

With the ongoing War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduates at some area colleges will hear, first hand, from two individuals who have been involved in policy decisions regarding Iraq and the Middle East.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright highlight a list of graduation speakers this month at colleges across North Carolina. Powell will speak May 17 at Wake Forest, while Albright will speak at Duke on Sunday. Others scheduled to speak during graduation ceremonies include Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

Here is a look at some of the speakers that will be featured at commencement exercises this month:

Colin Powell: Powell’s speech will be held in the backdrop of one of the most stringent security plans for any graduation ceremony in the state. Access to Reynolda Campus will be limited to vehicles with a commencement parking pass. Those attending graduation ceremonies must go through a security checkpoint. Graduation ceremonies are not opened to the public, as has been historically the case at Wake Forest.

Powell, who has served as Secretary of State since 2001, is a retired Army four-star general and former Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, a position he held during the First Gulf War.

Madeline Albright: Former Secretary of State Albright will speak to Duke graduates Sunday. The ceremonies are opened to the public.

Albright became the first female U.S. Secretary of State when she was sworn into office in 1997. During Albright’s tenure as Secretary of State, U.S. military forces, under NATO, were sent to Kosovo, and the U.S. conducted bombing raids in Iraq in 1998.

Julius Chambers: Former North Carolina Central University Chancellor Chambers will speak to UNC-Chapel Hill graduates Sunday morning at Kenan Stadium. The ceremonies are opened to the public.

Chambers is a civil rights attorney an alumnus of the UNC-CH, having received his law degree from the School of Law. He graduated in 1958 from N.C. Central. Chamber argued the 1971 Supreme Court case, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, that upheld busing as a means of desegregating schools.

He is currently the director of the Center for Civil Rights within the School of Law. The center works towards the advancement of civil rights and social justice in the south, with a focus on education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development, and voting.

Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeil: McNeil, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the U.S. Army at Fort McPherson, Ga., will speak to graduates at N.C. State on May 15 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.

McNeil, an N.C. State alumnus, previously commanded almost all of the U.S. forces and coordinated the efforts of coalition forces from England, Canada and other countries in the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan.

McNeil graduated from N.C. State in 1968 with a degree in wood technology. He has previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.: Dole, the state’s junior senator, will speak before graduates at UNC-Pembroke on Saturday. Commencement exercises will be held next to Lumbee Hall on campus.

Dole entered the Senate after defeating Erskine Bowles in 2002 to succeed Sen. Jesse Helms. Dole is a former president of the American Red Cross and Secretary of Transportation in the Reagan Administration. She also served as the Secretary of Labor in the first Bush Administration from 1989 to 1991.

James Earl Jones: Jones, an acclaimed actor, will speak Saturday at N.C. A&T’s commencement ceremonies, which will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Jones is best known as the voice of “Darth Vader” in the Star Wars series. He also stared in “Field of Dreams” and was in “The Hunt for Red October.” His other movie accolades include “The Lion King” as the voice of “Mufasa,” “Clear and Present Danger,” “Patriot Games,” and “Matewan.”

Elizabeth Edwards: Edwards, wife of North Carolina senior senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards, D-N.C., will speak to Peace College graduates on Saturday. The ceremony is not opened to the pubic.

She is a graduate of UNC-CH School of Law.

Among other graduate speakers scheduled to speak during commencement ceremonies include Wake Forest Provost Edwin Graves Wilson (Campbell University, May 10), Mount Holyoke College English professor Christopher Benfey (Guilford College, May 8), North Carolina Blue Cross & Blue Shield President Robert J. Greczyn Jr. (Mount Olive College, May 8), Millard Fuller, president and founder of Habitat for Humanity (Pfeiffer University, May 8), former North Carolina Republican Governor James E. Holshouser Jr. (St. Andrews Presbyterian College, May 8), and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space (Winston-Salem State College, May 8).

Shannon Blosser ( is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.