Newark Mayor Cory Booker to speak at Commencement

The Honorable Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., has been named Commencement speaker for the Class of 2011. Booker will speak at the College’s 222nd Commencement Day on Sunday, June 5.
On Class Day, June 4, Arctic and Antarctic explorer Ann Bancroft will give the Baccalaureate address. Filmmaker Ken Burns will host a conversation in the ’62 Centre on the afternoon of June 4.

Booker rose to prominence due to his innovative vision and strong leadership skills as the mayor of New Jersey’s largest city. Bancroft is known for being the first woman in history to reach both the North and South Poles. Burns is the acclaimed director and producer of several historical documentaries.
Booker, Bancroft and Burns will all receive honorary degrees at the Commencement ceremony. In addition, performance artist Marina Abramovic, political scientist Bruce Russett ’56 and former Philippine Finance Secretary Margarito “Gary” B. Teves, who graduated from the College’s Center for Developmental Economics in 1968, will be awarded honorary degrees.

Cory A. Booker

Booker was born in 1969 in Washington, D.C., and he grew up in Bergen County, N.J. Booker was an All-American football player in high school and, following graduation, went to study at Stanford. He played varsity football at Stanford and earned a B.A. in political science in 1991 and an M.A. in sociology the following year.

Booker then studied at Oxford after earning a Rhodes Scholarship. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale Law School in 1997, where he started free legal clinics for New Haven’s lower-income residents.

In 1998, Booker was elected to the Newark Municipal Council in an upset victory. He soon became known for his unconventional political tactics, such as going on a hunger strike to protest drug dealing and its associated violence, and his advocacy for education reform.

In 2006, Booker completed a successful run for mayor of Newark. He has established a strong vision for the transformation of the city.

Under the Booker administration, a public-private partnership was formed to carry out a $40 million transformation of the parks and playgrounds in the city. Additionally, under his leadership, affordable housing production has doubled and the city’s budget process has been reformed. Booker won reelection in 2010.

Booker currently serves on many education-related boards including Democrats for Education Reform, Columbia University Teachers’ College Board of Trustees and the Black Alliance for Education Options.

Ann Bancroft

Author, teacher and explorer, Bancroft was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1955. Bancroft received her B.S. in physical education from the University of Oregon. She then became a wilderness instructor and gym teacher in Minneapolis before giving up her teaching post in 1986 to join the Will Steger International North Pole Expedition. After traveling for 56 days by dogsled, Bancroft, along with five other team members, arrived at the North Pole. The trip totaled 1000 miles starting from the Northwest Territories in Canada, and Bancroft was the only female member of the team.
In 1993, Bancroft led the American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole, which consisted of a 67-day, 660-mile long trip on skis. In 2001, Bancroft and Liv Arnesen became the first team of women to ski across Antarctica’s landmass.

Bancroft maintains a passion for teaching children. In addition to her teaching in Minneapolis, she has coached a variety of sports. In 2001, she founded the Ann Bancroft Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the achievements of women and girls. Bancroft is also included in a documentary featuring celebrities who have dealt with learning disabilities, as she was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child.

Ken Burns

Born in 1953 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Burns directs and produces documentary films. He earned his B.A. from Hampshire College in 1975.

The first film Burns directed and produced was the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981. He is known for his trilogy of epic documentaries The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994) and Jazz (2001). The Civil War was the first documentary to earn more than $100 million, and it is the most-watched program to air on PBS to date.

Burns is particularly well known for using archival footage, period music, photos and correspondence in his movies, as these elements allow him to integrate individuals’ stories into broader historical narratives. His films have won 12 Emmy Awards, two Academy Award nominations and two Grammy Awards. Burns is currently working on a history of Prohibition, likely set for broadcast on PBS this year.