Harvard Can’t Find ‘Class Day’ Graduation Speaker; 10 Turn Down Invite

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(JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Harvard College is struggling to find a speaker for “Class Day” at its graduation later this month, with ten invited speakers already having turned down the slot, partly due to ongoing protests and antisemitism at the elite campus.

The Harvard Crimson reported Friday:

More than 10 people have declined offers to serve as the keynote speaker for Harvard College’s annual Class Day, leaving the Harvard Alumni Association scrambling to find a speaker with less than two weeks until the ceremony for undergraduate seniors.
The potential speakers declined for a variety of reasons, including an unwillingness to affiliate with Harvard during a year of controversy, scheduling conflicts, and high honorarium requests, according to Senior Class First Marshal Fez S. Zafar ’24.

The hesitation to affiliate with Harvard comes after the University faced intense backlash over its initial response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The ongoing pro-Palestine encampment protest in Harvard Yard has also called into question the logistics of this year’s Commencement and Class Day ceremonies — which normally occur in Tercentenary Theatre, where protesters recently set up additional tents.

A Harvard College spokesperson told the Crimson that none of the speakers had cited “the ongoing controversy” as the reason for declining the invitation, but the Crimson seemed to disagree.

Class Day is the day before the formal commencement ceremony, and the speech is typically lighthearted.

Famous Class Day speakers in the past include President Joe Biden in 2017, Facebook chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg in 2014, comedian Larry Wilmore in 2023 — and, perhaps most notoriously, Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen), in character, in 2004.

Harvard has suspended students who are participating the “encampment,” which swelled during demonstrations over the weekend as activists appeared to have cut locks on the gates of Harvard Yard to allow non-university-affiliated participants to enter.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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