While President Barack Obama served as keynote speaker at Morehouse College’s 2013 commencement on Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, MD, “America’s Doctor”, was close by where she spoke brilliantly about the field of science at Spelman College’s commencement ceremony. “Only 6.7 percent of the world’s population has college degrees. We need more people of color going into the sciences. Being a practitioner is outstanding, but if you can affect and create medical policy, you can help a mass of underserved people,” she told to an audience of over 500 graduates, parents and distinguished guests.
In addition to addressing the graduates, Dr. Benjamin also received an honorary degree presented to her by Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum. This year’s other honorary degree recipients included scholar Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report; and the Honorable Harriet Mitchell Murphy (Class of ’49), the first African American woman to be appointed officially as a judge in Texas.
A member of the Institute of Medicine and the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Benjamin was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader. Named by Time magazine as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under”, she was featured in the 1995 New York Times article, “Angel in a White Coat.”
She was appointed Surgeon General of the United States by President Obama in 2009. A 3-star United States Vice Admiral, she is the 2nd highest ranking military officer in the country – outranked only by President Obama.
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a historically Black college for women. Long-time supporters of the school include Mr. and Mrs. Bill Cosby, who in 1988, created the college’s Endowed Professorship Program. Last year, the college launched its Wellness Revolution, which “empowers and educates Spelman women on the value of lifelong wellness as a means of building stronger, healthier communities.”
Other prominent keynote speakers of recent graduation ceremonies at Spelman have included First Lady Michelle Obama who served in 2011 and media mogul Oprah Winfrey who served in 2012.