Comedian and actress Amy Poehler has been selected as this year’s Senior Class Day speaker. Poehler will address the Class of 2011, their families, and guests in Harvard Yard’s Tercentenary Theatre on May 25.
The annual ceremonies, which take place on the day before Commencement, are an opportunity for the College’s senior class to come together a final time before graduation. In addition to Poehler’s address, the Class Day festivities will include the Ivy and Harvard orations, a speech by Dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds, and an evening concert by the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Harvard University Band.
A Massachusetts native and Boston College graduate, Poehler is known for her work on the late-night sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” (SNL), where she was a cast member for eight years and received two nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award. She currently stars in the NBC comedy series “Parks and Recreation,” where she plays Leslie Knope — a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Ind. The role has earned Poehler her third Emmy nomination.
Senior Class Marshal Toby Stein ’11, chair of the subcommittee that chose this year’s speaker, says that he and his classmates wanted someone who was “in our collective consciousness.” They also wanted someone who could make them laugh.
“We wanted someone people would recognize, who could give a funny and engaging speech,” he says. “During her time on SNL, Amy was a part of our growing up, and there’s no doubt that she’s pretty hilarious.”
Poehler is also known for her work in film. She starred opposite fellow SNL alum Tina Fey in the 2008 hit comedy “Baby Mama,” and also has lent her voice to animated films such as “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Horton Hears a Who,” and “Shrek the Third.” Stein says that, in addition to her time on SNL, it was Poehler’s work in the 2004 teen comedy “Mean Girls” that made her a top choice of the Class Day selection committee.
“‘Mean Girls’ is an icon of our generation,” he says. “We are all big fans of SNL too. We’re really excited to have Amy speak on Class Day.”
Stein says that Poehler’s ability to be both topical and funny will make her a lighthearted segue from the past two Class Day speakers, journalists Christiane Amanpour and Matt Lauer. He points out that Poehler enjoyed a long run as co-anchor of SNL’s “Weekend Update” news parody and, in 2008, portrayed Sen. Hillary Clinton on “Saturday Night Live” in a “joint campaign spot” with then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, played by Fey, a sketch that created a minor sensation in the waning days of the presidential race.
“The speakers in the past two years have been serious newscasters,” Stein says. “Amy did ‘Weekend Update’ on SNL, so she’s a different kind of newscaster. We’re hoping that experience will put a different spin on current events, and give seniors a look at the world we’re living in from a different angle.”
For more information on Harvard’s 360th Commencement, including its schedule, visit the Commencement Office website.