Obama Adviser to Speak at Pomona Commencement

Pomona College announced this week that Valerie Jarrett, a senior political adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama,
will speak at the college’s 121st Commencement. Jarrett oversees the
Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and also chairs the White
House Council on Women and Girls.

“I am sure she is also going to
have some really cool things to say,” Senior Class President Emma Marshall PO ’14 said. “I know her role in the White House is
being involved in a lot of really cool issues.”

Marshall also noted that Jarrett’s work relates to discussions on campus about sexual assault. 

“Most interestingly, I know
she has spearheaded, along with other people in the administration, the most
recent administrative action on targeting sexual assault on college campuses,” she said. “I
think that this is a time in which that discussion is coming to the forefront
on this campus; it is nice to have someone who is dealing with these issues on
a more macro level.”

The Honorary Degrees
Committee, which is made up of trustees, faculty members, and students, such as the senior and junior class presidents, helped make the decision to have Jarrett as the Commencement
speaker. However, some students outside of the committee said that there
should be greater student choice in the selection process.

“No one I know had any say in the
decision about who was coming to speak, and I think that was not the best,” Matt Karkut PO ’14 said. “I
think Pomona could have asked us for our opinions because, after all, we pay all
this tuition money and we should be able to choose who gets to talk as our Commencement speaker, be it a comedian or politician.”

Associated Students of Pomona College President Darrell Jones III PO ’14 disagreed, however.

“I feel as though if folks actually wanted to get involved in the process they could have,” he said. “There were no real barriers.” 

At Commencement, Jarrett will be joined by Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the United States; Plácido Domingo, the current general director of the Los Angeles Orchestra and a world-renowned tenor and conductor; and Michael Starbird, a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. All four will receive honorary degrees from Pomona.

Special Assistant to the President Theresa Shaw said that she is excited about the group of honorary degree recipients.

“I think it is a great mixture of public figures,” she said. “Arts with Mr. Domingo, and Michael Starbird, a superstar of mathematics, and Father Boyle, whose work is so important to our region, to Los Angeles … It is a really wonderful array of recipients that represent so many of the touch points for Pomona College.” 

The Commencement ceremony will take
place on Marston Quadrangle on May 18 at 10 a.m.

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