United States Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, from New York, will deliver the address at the 149th Vassar College Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 26, 2013. The commencement program will begin at the campus Outdoor Amphitheater at 10:00am.
Gillibrand will be the first U.S. senator to give the Vassar commencement address, and joins the ranks of prominent elected politicians who have spoken at the exercises, including: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who spoke in 1931 as Governor of New York; New York Governor Mario Cuomo; and U.S. Representatives Shirley Chisholm, William H. Gray III, and Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“I am delighted that Senator Gillibrand accepted our invitation to give the commencement speech this year. Congress is dealing with an incredibly important set of issues that will affect our country’s future, and Senator Gillibrand is playing an important role in these deliberations,” said Vassar President Catharine Hill. “I am very excited that she will be sharing her thoughts and perspectives with us this spring.”
Gillibrand was first sworn in as a United States Senator in January 2009. When President Obama appointed Hillary Clinton, then a U.S. Senator from New York, as U.S. Secretary of State in 2008, New York Governor David Paterson chose Gillibrand to succeed her. Gillibrand was initially required to run in a special election in 2010, which she won with 63% of the vote. In November 2012, Gillibrand was elected to her first full six-year Senate term with 72 percent of the vote, winning 60 of New York’s 62 counties. This was the largest statewide electoral margin of victory in the state’s history.
Prior to the Senate, Gillibrand served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing New York's 20th Congressional District, which spanned 10 counties in upstate New York.
Senator Gillibrand has made her presence felt in the U.S. Senate in a variety of ways. Among her accomplishments, she was among the key leaders of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that banned gay people from serving openly in the military. She also led the effort to gain special health care and compensation to the 9/11 first responders and community survivors that are sick with diseases caused by the toxins at the site of the New York attacks. Her work to bring Democrats and Republicans together on these legislative victories led Newsweek/The Daily Beast to name her one of “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
In 2012, Gillibrand led the effort to pass the STOCK Act, legislation to make insider trading by members of Congress illegal, holding them accountable to the same set of rules for every other citizen. A Washington Post report hailed the STOCK Act as the “most substantial debate on congressional ethics in nearly five years.”
Throughout her time in Congress Gillibrand has been committed to open and honest government. When she was initially elected to the House she became the first member of Congress to post online her official public schedule, personal financial disclosure, and federal earmark requests. The New York Times called Gillibrand's commitment to transparency a "quiet touch of revolution" in Washington. Later she became the first U.S. senator to publish her personal tax returns for every year she has served in office directly on her own website.
Senator Gillibrand worked as an attorney in Upstate New York before becoming a member of Congress. Prior to that she served as Special Counsel to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo during the Clinton Administration, following work as an attorney in New York City for more than a decade. She earned her B.A. from Dartmouth College, and after completing her law degree from the UCLA School of Law she served as a law clerk on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.