Knox College Commencement Speakers 2005-Present

Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright

May 19, 2009

Recent commencement speakers at Knox College have included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former President Bill Clinton, political satirist Stephen Colbert, and President -- then-U.S. Senator -- Barack Obama.

2008: Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright
"You will not flinch when clear distinction is between what is right and wrong. You will fight bigotry of all kinds both around you and more importantly still, in the recesses and reflexes of your own mind. You will have the courage to confront the axis of evil: arrogance, ignorance and hate. And you will have the wisdom to recognize the best in others while always demanding the best from yourselves..."
Video, audio and transcript of Madeleine Albright's Commencement Address


2007: Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
"Think about the difference in what this student body looks like and what it looked like when Abraham Lincoln got his honorary degree [from Knox in 1860]. Or what it looked like when Presidents McKinley and Taft were here [in the early 1900s]. Or what it looked like just 30 years ago. You have students from virtually every American state, over 40 foreign nations, people from every different racial and ethnic group and different religious backgrounds. It's a microcosm of the globally interdependent world which you will soon enter..."
Video, audio and transcript of Bill Clinton's Commencement Address


2006: Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert
"When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City, there was really only one rule... When you improvise a scene, you have to say 'yes' to what the other improviser initiates... Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script, often with people and places you have never seen before. So say 'yes.' And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say 'yes' back. Will saying 'yes' lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism is a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying 'yes' leads to knowledge. 'Yes' is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say 'yes.' And that's The Word."

Video, audio and transcript of Stephen Colbert's Commencement Address


2005: Barack Obama

Barack Obama
"What will be your place in history? In other eras this question could be answered with relative ease and certainty. As a servant in Rome, you knew you'd spend your life forced to build somebody else's Empire... As a subject of King George, you knew that your freedom to build your own life would be ultimately limited by the throne. And then America happened -- a place where destiny was a journey to be shared and shaped by people... who have made America a land where the question of our place in history is not answered for us. It's answered by us..."
Video, audio and transcript of Barack Obama's Commencement Address

2009 Commencement Information

2009 Commencement Speaker

2009 Honorary Degree Recipients

Knox College Honorary Degrees, 1849 to 2008