“As we considered how to make this year’s virtual format as meaningful as possible for the Class of 2021 and their families, we decided that having two graduation speakers share their perspectives on the domestic and international challenges facing our world would be very meaningful and relevant,” Janow wrote in a letter to the SIPA community. “These extraordinary individuals have agreed to speak about the challenges and opportunities of our present moment and the importance of leadership and public service.”
Albright, who earned a degree from SIPA and a PhD from Columbia, is a professor, author, diplomat, and businesswoman who served as the United States’ secretary of state from January 1997 to January 2001. As the first female secretary of state, Albright became, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. From 1993 to 1997, Albright served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and was a member of the president’s cabinet. She is a professor in the practice of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm; and chair of Albright Capital Management, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She also chairs the National Democratic Institute, serves as the president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation, and is honorary chair of the World Refugee & Migration Council. In 2012, she was chosen by President Obama to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in recognition of her contributions to international peace and democracy.
Holder, who also has deep ties to Columbia as a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School, served as attorney general of the United States from February 2009 to April 2015. The third-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history and the first African American to hold that office, he is an internationally recognized leader across a broad range of regulatory enforcement, criminal justice, and national security issues. In 2014, Time magazine named Holder to its list of 100 Most Influential People, noting that he had “worked tirelessly to ensure equal justice.” Including his tenure as attorney general, Holder has served in government for more than thirty years, having been appointed to various senior positions by Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Reagan.
“I can think of no more important moment to hear from these two globally admired and respected policy leaders,” wrote Janow, who also thanked SIPASA leadership and other students for their guidance in the selection.