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Karine Jean-Pierre announced as commencement speaker

Photo courtesy Rice University

By Ben Baker-Katz     2/22/23 8:45am

Karine Jean-Pierre, current White House press secretary and presidential advisor, will be the 2023 commencement speaker, President Reginald DesRoches announced in an email to the Rice community on Wednesday morning. 

“I am excited about hosting Karine in Houston and at Rice,” DesRoches said. “Her message to our graduates will undoubtedly be inspiring, relevant and authentic.”

Jean-Pierre, as the speaker for the 110th commencement ceremony, will be the first Black speaker since 2017. Similar to DesRoches, Jean-Pierre is of Haitian descent and moved to Queens, NY with her family at a young age. 

Before serving in the Biden White House, Jean-Pierre was the southeast regional political director for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the national deputy battleground states director on his 2012 campaign and a regional political director for the White House political affairs during Obama’s first administration. In the Biden White House, she originally served as deputy press secretary before being promoted in May 2022.

Additionally, as DesRoches noted in his email, Jean-Pierre is the first Black and first openly LGBT person to serve as White House press secretary. 

“Like many of you, Karine has broken barriers to get where she is today,” DesRoches said. “This part of her story was especially attractive to me and to the members of the student committee who nominated her to be this year’s commencement speaker.”

This announcement comes on the heels of condensing the commencement ceremony to a single day, a change that was announced last month.

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