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Spelman College Commencement

2022 Commencement Address

Stacey Yvonne Abrams

Stacey Abrams - 2022 Commencement SpeakerListed in Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Stacey Abrams is a dynamic political leader, voting rights advocate, tax lawyer, innovative entrepreneur, and best-selling author. Ms. Abrams graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 1994 in recognition of her commitment to public service. She obtained a master’s degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin in 1998 and a juris doctorate from the Yale University School of Law in 1999. In 2017, Abrams received the Doctor of Laws Honorary degree from her alma mater, Spelman College.

After graduating from law school, Abrams returned to Atlanta and worked as a tax attorney. In 2002 she was appointed as the Deputy City Attorney for the City of Atlanta, where she led the legal and policy analysis for major economic development, transportation, and transit projects and managed a multi-million-dollar budget and a team of more than twenty attorneys and paralegals. During this time, Abrams also founded or co-founded several businesses, including an infrastructure consulting firm, a technology company, a bever- age company for infants and toddlers, and a financial services firm that specializes in providing access to capital for small businesses.

In 2006, Abrams was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and quickly gained a reputation for bipartisanship. She became the House Minority leader in 2010 and the first African American woman to hold this position in Georgia. As the top Democrat in the Georgia House of Representatives, she brokered compromises for progress on transportation and infrastructure. Her bipartisan efforts were instrumental in saving the HOPE Scholarship and universal pre-K. She passed legislation and increased budget allocations to improve the welfare of grandparents and other family members raising children who would otherwise be placed in foster care. Abrams remained in the state legislature until August 2017 when she resigned to run for the Governor of the State of Georgia.

In 2018, Abrams became the first African American woman in the United States to become a gubernatorial nominee for a major party. While she lost the race for governor by approximately 55,000 votes, the historic election and her voter registration efforts garnered over 86,000 new voters, many of them voters of color. After the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight to address issues of voter suppression and vowed never to let voter suppression or lack of turnout affect the outcome of another election. In the 2020 presidential election, Abrams and other voting rights advocates are credited with registering around 800,000 new Georgia voters prior to the election.

Abrams’ public service and commitment to education and political equity extend beyond the boundaries of Georgia and have earned her a national reputation. In 2019, Abrams became the first African American woman and Georgian to deliver a response to the State of the Union Address. Abrams’ other honors include the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award (2012); Governing magazine’s Public Official of the Year Award (2014); Georgia Trend’s “100 Most Influential Georgians” (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017); the Friends of Labor Award from the Georgia AFL-CIO (2018); and the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas (2019). In 2019, The Root listed Abrams as its number one rising star, up from number eleven in 2014. In 2021, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.