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Janet Reno to be keynote speaker at UC Berkeley's May 9 commencement convocation
10 April 2001

From Media Relations

Berkeley - At the invitation of students from the University of California, Berkeley, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno will be the keynote speaker at the campus's upcoming 2001 Commencement Convocation. The annual event, to be held this year on Wednesday, May 9, is a gathering that honors all graduating seniors.

Reno was among the most requested keynote speakers for Commencement Convocation in a survey taken last summer of more than 9,000 UC Berkeley students eligible to be seniors in fall 2001, said UC Berkeley senior Humaira Merchant.

Merchant cited Reno's "liberal and progressive policies" and the fact that she was the nation's first female attorney general.

"You have paved a path for women in politics that many are sure to follow," wrote Merchant, vice president for commencement, and Phillip Yim, president for commencement, in a Feb. 2, 2001, letter to Reno.

"As Class of 2001, we commend your efforts towards youth prevention and early intervention programs, as well as reforming the juvenile justice system," they said in the letter. "We admire the accomplishments you have made in your career in the judicial system, not only as attorney general, but also in the Florida court system."

Reno was U.S. attorney general from 1993-2001, responsible for the enforcement of federal laws and for defending the government in court. She follows other notable individuals - including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Bill Cosby, Terry McMillan, and Steve Wozniak - who were keynote speakers at UC Berkeley's Commencement Convocation.

Merchant declined to name other top keynote speakers suggested by UC Berkeley seniors for the 2001 event in order "to respect their privacy," she said, "and because they may be asked again by future classes."

She said she and others planning the 4 p.m. gathering at the Greek Theatre "are proud that students played such a key role in selecting the speaker."

Merchant and Yim represent Californians, Class of 2001, a student group that plans Senior Week, Commencement Convocation and other activities at UC Berkeley for graduating seniors.

No diplomas are awarded at Commencement Convocation. Instead, they are distributed at dozens of departmental graduations held throughout May. Only graduating seniors and their guests can obtain tickets to attend Commencement Convocation.

New at Commencement Convocation this year will be a procession of seniors, wearing academic gowns, into the amphitheater. In past years, students dressed more casually - only about 100 would wear regalia - and did not file in or sit together.

This year, interested seniors will begin the procession at Kleeberger Field, across the street from the Greek Theatre. Dressed in regalia, they will sit together in special seats, apart from their families. Participation in this procession and seating arrangement is optional.

Said Merchant, "We think this new feature will make it feel more like a graduation."

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