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Northwestern commencement will be virtual

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will deliver the 2020 commencement address

Lori E. Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago who has become a key voice — and face — of social distancing, will deliver this year’s commencement address at Northwestern University, which will be held virtually in June.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro announced Lightfoot as the speaker this morning, while also announcing that the University’s commencement ceremony June 19 will be held remotely, in accordance with social distancing guidelines in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Schapiro said the University will hold a campus event saluting the graduates at a still-to-be-determined date in the future. 

The school had previously announced its Spring Quarter classes would be conducted remotely. Schapiro said Lightfoot is the perfect choice to speak at the school’s virtual commencement, which also caps Northwestern’s year-long celebration of the 150th year since women were first admitted to the University.

“Lori Lightfoot has consistently reminded us of society’s obligation to serve everyone, and she has worked tirelessly toward that end,” Schapiro said. “As the mayor of one of the world’s great cities, she has committed Chicago to being a model for solutions to urban challenges around the globe.  

“In recent weeks, our new mayor has emerged as a national leader, hailed for wise and decisive actions — and a warm and reassuring sense of humor — to protect her city and its citizens,” Schapiro said. “As someone who has broken barriers and expanded our sense of possibility, she is the ideal commencement speaker for us as we conclude our historic commemoration of 150 Years of Women at Northwestern.”

Lightfoot, who assumed office on May 20, 2019, has become a vocal proponent of social distancing through her directives and her humor-infused social media postings, which sparked a series of memes showing the mayor photoshopped into popular Chicago locations, now empty except for Lightfoot, who is imploring residents to stay home. The “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign has garnered international attention. 

Her leadership during the pandemic has been lauded by many observers and was chronicled in a recent New Yorker article by Peter Slevin, an associate professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern.

Lightfoot said she is honored to be Northwestern’s commencement speaker. 

“As we struggle to navigate a global public health crisis that is truly without precedent, we are also presented with a historic moment for our city that is filled with untold possibilities,” she said. “By working together as true partners and collaborators, we will be able to double-down on our investments in our communities, expand opportunity to every resident, and transform the economic map of our city for generations to come. I am deeply honored to be able to share this renewed mission with Northwestern’s graduating class as they embark on their own journey to remake the world as an inclusive, just and sustainable home for us all.”

The commencement ceremony, Northwestern’s 162nd, will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 19. Details of the remote ceremony are still being ironed out.