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The GW Hatchet

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Kerry Washington to speak at commencement

Kerry Washington, an actress and GW alumna, will speak at Commencement in May. She recently appeared in the Academy Award-winning film “Django Unchained.”

Actress and alumna Kerry Washington will headline this year’s Commencement ceremony, GW announced Monday.

Washington, who graduated magna cum laude in 1998, formerly served as a member of the GW Board of Trustees, and will accept an honorary degree before a 20,000-person crowd May 19.

She is the first GW graduate to keynote Commencement in at least six years, though last year’s speaker, award-winning journalist Brian Williams, also took classes at GW.

The Bronx, N.Y. native snagged a role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” which was nominated for best picture this year at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. She also stars as communications consultant Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal, making Washington the first black woman to headline a network television show since 1974.

Washington earned the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance in “Ray.” She shared the screen with actor and musician Jamie Foxx in both “Django Unchained” and “Ray.”

A former resident assistant in Thurston Hall, Washington did not major in acting while attending GW. She passed over elite acting schools like the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama to accept GW’s presidential performing arts scholarship.

Washington now sits on President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and is part of a group of advisers for V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women.

She also spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention, urging fellow Obama supporters to stand up and preserve their rights.

“Today there are people trying to take away rights that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for: our right to vote, our right to choose, affordable quality education, equal pay, access to health care. We the people can’t let that happen,” Washington said at the convention last September.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent off the graduating class of 2011, first lady Michelle Obama headlined the event in 2010 and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel spoke in 2009.

When joining the Board of Trustees in 2010, Washington said her time at GW helped shape her professional career.

“Because the George Washington University is a really important part of who I am as a professional,” Washington said then about why she wanted to join the Board. “It’s an important part of how I do what I do and it’s very important to participate.”

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