Lewis to speak at Commencement
By Ping Khuan Sim
Published on Monday, April 12, 2010
Stephen Henry Lewis, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS to Africa, will deliver this year’s Commencement address to the Class of 2010 on June 13, according to a College press release published Sunday. Lewis has been one of the most influential figures in international development over the last 20 years, College President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
Lewis was chosen as Commencement speaker because “he has such a powerful and important message that will be very inspiring to our graduates,” Kim said in the interview.
“Lewis has been, over the last 20 years, one of the most important figures in international development, and especially in the work of responding to HIV,” Kim said. “He is one of the most famous people of Canada, and globally, he is extremely well known in the global development circles.”
Kim added that Lewis, in his opinion, is “one of the greatest orators living on the face of the Earth” and will make an exceptional commencement speaker.
“I’ve heard him speak many times,” Kim said. “Every time I heard him speak, he had electrified students.”
Lewis’s work and life will be very relevant and appealing to Dartmouth students, Kim said.
“There’s nobody else I know who has made the world’s troubles their troubles and does something about them as effectively as Stephen Lewis,” Kim said.
As ambassador, Lewis chaired the committee that drafted the five-year UN Programme on African Economic Recovery and the first International Conference on Climate Change in 1988, according to the press release. Lewis had also served as deputy executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund from 1995 to 1999. In 1997, Lewis was chosen by the Organization of African Unity to join the Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the Genocide in Rwanda.
Lewis is now a global health professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada and a co-director of AIDS-Free World, an organization he co-founded in 2007 that advocates a greater and more efficient international response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to the release.
Lewis chairs the board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a Canadian charity that supports community-based organizations in Africa, the release stated. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
Lewis highlighted the failings of the international community to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals that all UN member states have agreed to work together to achieve by 2015 in his 2005 book “Race Against Time,” according to the press release.
This year’s Commencement is Kim’s first, and Kim promises to invite “a wide variety of Commencement speakers tackling a whole bunch of different topics” in future years, he said.
Lewis will receive an honorary degree from the College at the Commencement ceremony.
In the College press release, Lewis said that he is “thrilled” to be receiving the honorary degree from Dartmouth.
“It’s my first honorary degree from an American higher education institution and Dartmouth has such a sterling reputation in the world of academe,” Lewis said.
Lewis has received multiple honorary degrees and awards for his work in international development and diplomacy, most notably the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor that recognizes a lifetime of achievements.
The College has not yet announced other honorary degree recipients or speakers at Commencement.
Lewis was not immediately available for comment.