Anita Hill Is Wellesley’s 2019 Commencement Speaker

Anita Hill's headshot.
Image credit: Brandeis University
April 12, 2019

Anita Hill, whose courage has inspired generations, will address the members of the class of 2019 at Wellesley’s 141st commencement exercises on May 31.

Hill is renowned for her work with civil and women’s rights, in pursuit of social justice, and to combat sexual harassment. Her voice has been prominent in academia, politics, and in the media regarding gender, race, and equality; the Washington Post has called her a “leading face” of the ongoing #MeToo movement.

“We are experiencing a watershed moment in which women are making their voices heard throughout society—in business, politics, higher education and social movements,” said Hill, a university professor of social policy, law, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of its Heller School for Social Policy and Management. “Wellesley women are known for standing up for justice, and the class of 2019 is graduating into a climate that is challenging, but offers so many possibilities for leadership. I am honored to mark this momentous occasion with the graduating seniors."

It is a Wellesley tradition that each graduating class considers the visionaries who most inspire them as they prepare to select the commencement speaker. The class of 2019 announced its choice on April 11 at the annual senior celebration.

“Given the events of this year regarding the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and the rise of the #MeToo movement, we wanted to choose a speaker who not only continues to advocate for racial and gender rights, but was also an integral part to the very start of this fight,” Class Council co-presidents Alex Kew and Dominique Huang said in a statement. “As we transition to the next phases of our lives, this is the message we wanted to leave with our class of 2019—to transcend expectations, carve out our own paths, and speak our truths even in the face of adversity, just like Anita Hill.”

In her 1997 memoir, Speaking Truth to Power, Hill recounted her 1991 Congressional testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. “Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men’s sense that they are more important than women, as a group,” she wrote.

This past September, when Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school, Hill penned a New York Times op-ed on the parallels to her own experiences: “With the current heightened awareness of sexual violence comes heightened accountability for our representatives. To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond.”

“Anita Hill exemplifies moral courage,” said Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley College. “Throughout her career, she has spoken truth to power, reminding us of the impact that a single voice can have. As our graduates prepare to make their difference in the world, I have no doubt they will find both strength and inspiration in her words as in her life.”

Hill’s most recent book is Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home, published in 2011. She received this year’s Courage Award from PEN America, a literary and human-rights organization that defends and celebrates free expression in the United States. Hill holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oklahoma State University and a JD from Yale Law School as well as several honorary degrees.