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Michelle Obama

2011 Commencement Address

Michelle Obama

Press Release

Michelle ObamaFirst Lady Michelle Obama To Deliver Commencement Address To The Spelman College Class Of 2011

Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad to receive Honorary Degrees Teach For America CEO Wendy Kopp to receive National Community Service Award

A dedicated proponent of service and working with young people, first lady Michelle Obama is an example of how one woman can positively influence the world. On Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m., at the Georgia International Convention Center, Mrs. Obama will inspire more than 550 graduates to also leave their mark on the world when she delivers the commencement address to the Spelman College class of 2011. Mrs. Obama will also receive an honorary degree.

Honorary degrees will also be bestowed upon director, actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, and her sister, actress and director Phylicia Rashad. Wendy Kopp, CEO and founder of Teach For America will receive the National Community Service Award.

"Having Mrs. Obama as our 2011 Commencement speaker is a true honor because she embodies the Spelman College mission which is to prepare women to change the world in a meaningful way," said Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., president, Spelman College. "I know our students will be inspired by her powerful presence."

As first lady, Mrs. Obama uses her platform to support military families, help working women balance career and family, encourage national service, promote the arts and arts education, and foster healthy eating and healthy living for children and families across the country. In 2010, she launched the Let's Move! Campaign, a nationwide effort to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.

Underscoring the important contributions made by all the honorees, Dr. Tatum said "Our honorees have made a significant impact on the world just as Spelman women do. They offer our graduates empowered examples of excellence in action with game-changing results. We could not be happier!"

Honorary Degree Recipient: Debbie Allen, director, choreographer and author
Debbie Allen continues to be one of the most respected, relevant, and versatile talents in the entertainment industry today. She is an internationally recognized director, choreographer and author. Allen has received three Emmy awards honoring her choreography, and two Emmys and one Golden Globe for her role as "Lydia Grant" in the hit series "Fame." Allen has choreographed for artists such as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson, and also holds the distinction of having choreographed the Academy Awards a total of ten times, six in consecutive years. She has accumulated a long list of directing and producing credits for television, including "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "The Parkers," "That's So Raven," "All of Us," "Girlfriends," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Hellcats" and "Grey's Anatomy." She also produced the Steven Spielberg epic film "Amistad" in 1997.

Honorary Degree Recipient: Phylicia Rashad, actress, director
Phylicia Rashad is an actress, director and singer, best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on the NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show." She is the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of "A Raisin in the Sun." Rashad recently made her directorial debut at the helm of Seattle Rep's production of August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean." Her other Broadway credits include "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Dreamgirls," "The Wiz" and "Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death." Rashad has received many awards, including an NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her roles on "The Cosby Show" and the CBS sitcom "Cosby," on which she played Ruth Lucas. She has also been nominated for two Emmy Awards and has received two People's Choice Awards.

National Community Service Award Recipient: Wendy Kopp, CEO and founder, Teach For America
Wendy Kopp is CEO and founder of Teach For America, an organization established to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation's most promising future leaders in the effort. Today more than 8,000 Teach For America corps members are in the midst of two-year teaching commitments in 39 regions across the country, reaching over 500,000 students. Last year, more than 20 percent of Spelman seniors sought Teach for America posts.

Kopp is the author of "A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All" (2011) and "One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way" (2000).

Baccalaureate Service:
Spelman will hold its Baccalaureate ceremony on Saturday, May 14, 2011 on the Spelman College Oval beginning at 9 a.m. This year's speaker will be Emilie M. Townes, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African-American Religion and Theology at the Yale Divinity School.