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Vice President Joe Biden to deliver Wake Forest commencement address

April 17, 2009

Vice President Joe Biden will deliver Wake Forest University’s 2009 commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of laws degree May 18.  Biden will be the first sitting vice president to deliver a commencement address at Wake Forest. 

The commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. outside on Wake Forest’s Hearn Plaza.  Wake Forest’s commencement is reserved for graduates and their guests.  It is not open to the general public. 

“We are delighted that Vice President Joe Biden will be addressing our graduates at commencement.  Few public servants bring his wealth of experience to critical issues of foreign and domestic policy,” said Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch.  “It is a great opportunity for our graduates to hear Vice President Biden’s perspectives on the challenges that they, and the entire country, face in these difficult times.”

Biden spoke last October at an outdoor rally on Hearn Plaza organized by the Obama-Biden campaign.

Biden, 66, was elected vice president in 2008 after serving 36 years in the U.S. Senate from Delaware.  Delaware voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1969 when he was 29 years old, making him one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate. 

The White House Web site notes that Biden “has been a leader on some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges.  As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues including the landmark 1994 Crime Bill and the Violence Against Women Act.”

The Web site further states that as “Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1997, Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.  He has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.”

Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and the Syracuse University College of Law.  Born in Pennsylvania, he moved as a child with his family to Delaware.

Although Biden is the first sitting vice president to speak at Wake Forest’s commencement, Gerald R. Ford spoke at commencement in 1972, shortly before becoming vice president.  Ford, a congressman when he spoke at commencement, became vice president in 1973 and president in 1974.

Former Wake Forest commencement speakers:

2008:  E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post columnist

2007:  David L. Brooks, New York Times columnist

2006:  Mark Warner, U.S. senator from Virginia

2005:  Arnold Palmer, professional golfer, Wake Forest alumnus and life trustee

2004:  Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state

2003:  Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor

2002:  John McCain, U.S. senator from Arizona

2001:  Barbara Bush, former first lady of the United States

2000:  John T. Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems

1999:  Cardinal Francis Arinze, Roman Catholic Church

Baccalaureate Speaker

Barbara K. Lundblad, Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will deliver the baccalaureate address during commencement weekend at 11 a.m. May 17 in Wait Chapel.  The baccalaureate service is a ticketed event open to graduates and their guests. 

Wake Forest will award Lundblad an honorary doctor of divinity degree.

Lundblad has been a member of the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in New York City since 1997.  She is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Previously, she served from 1980 to 1997 as pastor of Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church in New York City and held other positions in ministry, including campus pastor at New York University and Lehman University, both in New York City.

Lundblad is the author of the books “Marking Time:  Preaching Biblical Stories in Present Tense” and “Transforming the Stone:  Preaching through Resistance to Change,” both published in this decade.  In addition, she has written numerous book chapters and journal articles.  Many of her sermons are published in books and journals.

She has preached in congregations across the United States and has given lectures at many seminaries in the United States and Canada. 

About Wake Forest University:

Founded in 1834, Wake Forest University is a private, collegiate university dedicated to serving humanity through the pursuit of knowledge. Consistently ranked among the nation's top universities, Wake Forest offers students the personalized attention of a small liberal arts college with the resources, technology and co-curricular opportunities of a large university. With strong undergraduate and graduate programs and leading professional schools, Wake Forest maintains the highest academic and scholarly standards and strives to instill in all its students a desire to lead examined and purposeful lives.

Note to editors:  Members of the news media are invited to cover Biden’s address.  The University will have reserved seating for the news media.  At a later date, the Wake Forest News Service will announce the process for journalists to obtain commencement parking and admission passes.  Downloadable audio files and beta video recordings from Biden’s address will be available to the news media.  To arrange coverage or request more information, contact the Wake Forest News Service at 336-758-5237. Messages may be e-mailed to Eric Frazier in the News Service at

Press Contacts:

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

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