Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a celebrated academic and journalist, will deliver the keynote address at Barnard College’s 123rd Commencement on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 2:00 PM at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. She will address approximately 600 members of the Class of 2015 and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the College’s highest honor, together with three other honorees: Simi Linton, consultant and public speaker whose work focuses on disability and the arts; Nadia Lopez, innovative principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a public middle school in Brooklyn; and Diana Nyad, champion long-distance swimmer and author.

“As a journalist and as a diplomat, Ambassador Power’s work has helped to advance the ways that scholars and world leaders think about today’s most complex and crucial issues of human rights and international intervention,” said Barnard President Debora L. Spar. “Her experiences and insights will surely inspire our graduates, whose own lives and careers will contribute to the future of our nation in an infinite number of ways.”

Spar, who will preside over the ceremony, will confer the Barnard Medals of Distinction, present the degree candidates, and address the expected crowd of approximately 3,500 graduates, family members, faculty, and staff. The graduates will also hear from Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81, chair of the Barnard Board of Trustees and CEO of the Alberleen Group.

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About the Medalists

Ambassador Samantha Power is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. At the United Nations, Ambassador Power works to advance U.S. interests, promote and defend universal values, and address pressing challenges to global peace, security, and prosperity. Prior to her position as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Power served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Staff at the White House. In this role she focused on issues including UN reform; LGBT and women’s rights; the promotion of religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities; human trafficking; and democracy and human rights. Before joining the U.S. government, Ambassador Power was the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Ambassador Power is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002) and Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (2008), the basis for the award-winning HBO documentary, Sergio. Ambassador Power began her career as a journalist, reporting from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and contributed regularly to The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker.

Simi Linton is a writer, consultant, public speaker, and one of America’s foremost experts on disability and the arts. She works with a diverse range of cultural organizations—theatre companies, film and television producers, museums, nonprofit arts organizations, universities, and other groups across the country—to improve and increase the way disability is represented and depicted in all art forms. Linton is the subject of the recently released documentary film, Invitation to Dance, which she and Christian von Tippelskirch directed and produced. Linton is the author of Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity, the memoir My Body Politic, and numerous articles on disability. She was on the faculty at CUNY for 14 years, leaving in 1998 to write, and develop her consultancy to filmmakers, artists and cultural institutions, working to shape the presentation of disability in the arts, and to increase the representation of works by disabled artists.

Featured in The New York Times and the Humans of New York blog for her work as the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Nadia Lopez has utilized her talents as a social innovator to create a beacon of hope in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a community with high crime and low graduation rates. This has not stopped Lopez from attaining a 98% graduation rate of her middle school scholars who study a curriculum focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). Earning an A on the New York City Department of Education’s Progress Report and receiving high recognition from community organizations and local leaders, Mott Hall Bridges Academy, under Lopez’s direction, offers its students a diverse array of subject matter that includes entrepreneurship, culinary arts, videography, robotics, coding, journalism, dance, and visual arts. With networking and determination, Lopez leverages relationships that have changed the educational experience for thousands of children. Nadia Lopez has a blueprint for success that supports individuals, communities, and organizations that are seeking to build their legacy of achievement.

At the age of 64, in her fifth and final attempt, Diana Nyad successfully fulfilled her lifelong dream of completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida on September 2, 2013. Nyad has never been one to quit. In July 2010, at the age of 60, she began her “Xtreme Dream” quest of swimming from Cuba to Florida, a task she had failed to finish 30 years previously. Nyad was unsuccessful in her quest in 2010 and tried two more times in 2011 and 2012 before completing her historic swim in 2013. Back in the 1970′s, Nyad was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Her world records, such as circling Manhattan Island and crossing the 102.5 miles between the Bahamas and Florida, have led to inductions to many Halls of Fame, including the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Nyad became a prominent sports broadcaster, filing compelling reports for NPR, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Fox Sports, and The New York Times. She has written three books, speaks French and Spanish fluently, and is known for being a uniquely passionate and entertaining public speaker.