Campus & Community

Moynihan to speak on Commencement Day

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Former New York Senator to help send off graduates

Daniel Patrick
Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Former U.S. Sen. and former Harvard Professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan will be the Commencement speaker at this year’s afternoon exercises on June 6.

“Pat Moynihan’s career represents an extraordinary combination of intellectual distinction and devotion to public service,” said Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers. “He has been at the center of national and international debates on some of the most important and difficult issues of our time, and he has made profound contributions both to the life of the mind and the life of the nation. It will be a privilege to welcome him to Harvard on Commencement Day.”

Moynihan was first elected to the U.S. Senate from his native New York in 1976. He won re-election in 1982, 1988, and 1994. Throughout his career, Moynihan has been a powerful and sometimes controversial voice for social change.

Moynihan retired from the Senate in January 2001 after four terms. He was succeeded by former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is currently a University Professor at Syracuse University and senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

“Daniel Patrick Moynihan has been part of the Harvard community for many years and a major figure in the U.S. Senate over the last quarter century,” said Karen Spencer Kelly, president of the Harvard Alumni Association. “I very much look forward to hearing him speak to our alumni, including our newest alumni, in June.”

Moynihan, who served as a professor of government at Harvard from 1966 to 1977, has written or edited 18 books. His latest, “Secrecy: The American Experience,” grows out of his longstanding interest in and distrust of the government’s appetite for secrets. The book, which expands on the report of the bipartisan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, chaired by Moynihan, was published in 1998.

Moynihan’s career in government service spans more than four decades. He worked on Averell Harriman’s campaign for New York governor in 1954 and served on his staff until 1958. He began working in the federal government in 1961 as an assistant to the secretary of labor in the Kennedy Adminstration, eventually rising to assistant secretary of labor for policy planning. He has served in the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations in cabinet-level or sub-cabinet-level positions.

Moynihan also served as ambassador to India from 1973 to 1975, and as U.S. representative to the United Nations from 1975 to 1976.

He has received numerous honors and awards, including the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2000. Like other Harvard Commencement speakers, Moynihan will speak during the afternoon exercises’ annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Previous Commencement speakers include former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Mary Robinson, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and former president of the Republic of Ireland; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; and Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health.