Kennedy School Names IMF Head As Commencement Speaker

On May 23, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde will deliver the commencement address to this year’s class of Harvard Kennedy School graduates. Lagarde is not only the first woman to head the IMF, but also the first woman to serve as the minister of economic affairs for a G8 country—France. In 2011, she was ranked as the ninth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine.

“Christine Lagarde is an extraordinarily talented and effective leader whose experience and insight is proving critical at a perilous time for the global economy,” Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood wrote in an emailed announcement to the Harvard community.

Many students have reacted positively to this selection.

“I think it’s awesome that we’re having such a high-profile woman address us,” Kennedy School student Robert M. Shaw student. “The IMF speaks to the Harvard population, as diverse as this community is.”

Other students said that Lagarde is an appropriate choice to deliver the commencement address because of the current state of the global economy.

“Given the reach of the financial crisis, a lot of people will have to deal with it, so I think [Lagarde] is a very relevant choice,” Kennedy School student Laura M. Gunderson said.

“I’m very curious to hear what she says—what her message to the students would be,” Kennedy School student Eric Rodriguez said.

Some students were especially pleased with the choice of a female speaker.

“I think it’s very timely...professionally, she’s always been a great advocate for women,” Kennedy School student Mehnaz Haider said.

Professors echoed their students’ sentiments, praising her influence and experience.

“I feel like it’s a great choice because she has been a powerful person in French politics and...she’s at the nexus of future important decisions,” Kennedy School Professor Lant Pritchett said.

Kennedy School Professor of Public Policy Matthew Bunn agreed with Pritchett.

“She’s obviously very educated and sophisticated, and at the fulcrum of a huge policy issue,” Bunn said.

IMF spokesperson William J. Murray said that while Lagarde gets numerous requests for appearances, “she was happy she was asked to speak [at the Kennedy School].”

“The Kennedy School produces many people that operate in the international community and the economic policy-making realm,” Murray said. “[They are] an interesting audience and the graduates are going on to do important work.”

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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