Famous Faces: President Donna E. Shalala brings distinguished speakers to campus

Design by Sarbani Ghosh

Throughout her tenure, President Donna E. Shalala has sought to expose the university community to a wide range of high-profile guest speakers. Here are some of the most notable over the past 14 years.

Maya Angelou

In 2004, poet Maya Angelou visited the University of Miami to speak to graduating seniors at the first-ever graduate convocation. Angelou, author of 12 best-selling books, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” rode down to Miami from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to talk to students about the rainbows in life, her greatest influences and the dreaming that comes with life’s experiences.

Anderson Cooper

CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, a journalist who has covered hurricanes, presidential debates and war zones, paid a visit to UM for the 2008 senior convocation. He was welcomed to the BankUnited Center by UM President Donna E. Shalala as a “storyteller of the 21st century.” He spoke to students on “A 360-Degree Look at World Events” and shared his experience as a journalist from beginnings to hardships to stories of success.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington, chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, visited UM in April 2014. Huffington shared insight on her 14th book, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder” as well as success tips for graduates, from nurturing your human capital to adapting to the ever-changing professional industries.

Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, visited the university twice in 2004 and 2010. In his 2010 visit, he shared his message in “The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times.” He spoke of the responsibility students have in creating a more peaceful and compassionate world. As armed conflict takes place in many areas around the globe, the Dalai Lama noted that the “concept of war is outdated” and said “we’re all part of humanity.”

“We are honored once again to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama on our campus,” Shalala said in a statement in 2010.  “His Holiness teaches us all an important lesson in hope, compassion and humility.”

Lisa Ling

Journalist Lisa Ling delivered the fall convocation address in September 2013, when she discussed her story from her beginnings as a young journalist to becoming the executive producer and host of “Our America” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. In her talk at the BankUnited Center, titled “Open Heart, Open Mind,” Ling shared her experiences about covering stories such as the civil war in Afghanistan and sex trafficking in the U.S. She also discussed her work as a field correspondent for National Geographic’s “Explorer.”

The Clintons

President Shalala spent nine years serving as Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, from 1993 to 2001. President Bill Clinton has been no stranger to campus, making surprise visits during Shalala’s class on the U.S. Healthcare Crisis. Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton also hosted the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) in 2015. UM was the first school to host CGI U twice in 2010 and 2015. The event encourages students leaders to make “Commitments to Action” in one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. During the weekend-long event, President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton took the time to announce their hopes for Shalala’s position as the future president of the Clinton Foundation.

“It’s a very energetic group of international college students that come together to talk about, basically, making the world a better place,” Shalala told The Miami Hurricane in August 2014. “It’s a training ground for the next generation of leaders in the world.”

President Obama

President Barrack Obama has visited campus on several occasions, from the “Meet the Candidate” forum hosted by Univision in 2012 to a visit with the College of Engineering in February 2012 to discuss his energy policies. He then spoke to a crowd in the BankUnited Center about his administration’s plan for a more energy-efficient nation that is less dependent on foreign oil. Later in the year, Obama made another stop at UM as part of his campaign trail and hosted a rally at the BankUnited Center in October.

George W. Bush and John Kerry Debate

In 2004, UM hosted the first presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. Approximately 63 million people watched the debate on television and 250 students attended the debate and watched it live – the most students to ever watch a live debate at a college campus at that time. To enable one more person to attend, Shalala gave up her ticket to UM senior and Olympic silver medalist Lauryn Williams.

“I’m thrilled that such a large cross section of our student population was able to attend in person. This election is, after all, about their future,” Shalala said in a statement in 2004.