First Lady Jill Biden is the featured speaker at virtual Spring Commencement 2021

Jill Biden
First Lady Jill Biden will be the featured speaker for Mason's virtual Spring 2021 Commencement. Photo by Cheriss May

First Lady Jill Biden will be George Mason University’s Commencement speaker next month, headlining the May 14 virtual event honoring nearly 9,700 graduates.

Dr. Biden will record a speech for graduates that will be broadcast during the livestream event. The university will also conduct smaller, in-person graduation recognition events during the week of May 10, culminating in the virtual Commencement.

Dr. Biden received a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from the University of Delaware. She began her teaching career in 1976 in Delaware as an English teacher and reading specialist. She also taught at a psychiatric hospital and at Delaware Technical Community College.

Dr. Biden hosted with President Obama the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges in 2010 and became the honorary chair of the College Promise National Advisory Board, an effort to make community college free.

In addition to education, Dr. Biden has been deeply engaged in serving military families and in cancer initiatives.

As Second Lady, she traveled to nearly 40 countries, visiting military bases, hospitals and refugee camps, advocating for education and economic empowerment for women and girls. With then-First Lady Michelle Obama, she launched “Joining Forces,” which continues to support service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

Following the death of their son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, Dr. Biden and then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed for a national commitment to ending cancer through the White House Cancer Moonshot. They later launched the Biden Foundation and the Biden Cancer Initiative.

Dr. Biden wrote the New York Times bestselling memoir “Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself,” published in 2019. She also has written two children’s books.

Dr. Biden has an indirect connection to Mason. While Second Lady from 2009 to 2017, she taught writing courses at Northern Virginia Community College, which annually sends thousands of students to Mason to pursue their four-year degrees.

“Dr. Jill Biden has dedicated much of her life to what we most value at Mason—providing opportunities through education,” Mason President Dr. Gregory Washington said. “It will be an honor to have her join our graduates, their families, and the university community in celebrating our students’ achievements.”

President Biden has visited Mason twice in recent years. In 2017, he spoke at an event devoted to ending sexual violence on college campuses. In 2016, on the night before the election, he introduced vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine at a campaign rally.