Bringing his reputation for compelling speeches over his 27 years in Congress and an incredibly varied background in public service, Oakland native Ronald V. Dellums has been selected as this year’s commencement speaker.
“He has all the right values for Mills and is an outstanding political leader,” said President Janet Holmgren.
The 69-year-old Dellums has an extensive history in healthcare, civil rights, and military and foreign policy. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971, Dellums retired in 1998, and Mills alumna Barbara Lee was elected to his seat.
Calling Dellums “instrumental in giving the liberal end and peace perspective during his time in Congress,” Holmgren said, “he has also been a great advocate for equitable healthcare.”
Holmgren credited Lee, who began her political career interning in his office, with helping to land Dellums as commencement speaker.
Former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Armed Services Committee among others, Dellums was vocal in his opposition to the Vietnam War, fought for the end of apartheid, and pushed for peace and reductions in military spending throughout his time in Congress.
His work in HIV/AIDS led to President Bill Clinton appointing him Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on AIDS, and he spent years working on a national healthcare plan he first introduced in 1977.
Holmgren also said Dellums waived his $10,000 speaking fee and is being considered for an honorary degree – a decision ultimately made by the Board of Trustees.