HPU alumna Congresswoman Gabbard to speak at commencement

December 04, 2013

HONOLULU — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2009 graduate of Hawaiʻi Pacific University, will deliver keynote remarks at HPU’s Winter Commencement, set for Wednesday, Dec. 18, 5 p.m. at the Neal Blaisdell Arena. She will also be presented the university’s Fellow of the Pacific award.

Congresswoman Gabbard
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard, who earned a B.S. in International Business, was elected to Congress last year after a remarkable campaign that garnered national and international attention. A captain in the Hawaiʻi National Guard who served two deployments in the Middle East, Gabbard became one of the first two female combat veterans elected to Congress, as well as the first female of Samoan ancestry and the first Hindu.

Following her election, she was named a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. More recently, the 32-year-old lawmaker was recognized at Harvard as one of two 2013 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award winners. The prize honors “Americans under 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service” and was presented last week by Kennedy grandson Jack Schlossberg.

Gabbard’s first term has been marked by her success in working across the aisle to advance bi-partisan issues, such as her first sponsored bill, the Helping Heroes Fly Act, which passed the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote. The law allows for disabled or injured military service members to go through airport security screening privately, helping them to avoid potentially embarrassing and difficult screening procedures in full view of other passengers.

At HPU’s 81st commencement ceremony, Gabbard will receive the Fellow of the Pacific award, which is presented to outstanding community leaders for their contributions to Hawai‘i, the Pacific Rim and the university. Recipients of the award have included members of Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation, governors of the State of Hawai‘i, local government officials, business leaders, educators, philanthropists and noted professionals in a host of fields. Last year, the award was presented to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

At commencement, Gabbard will address students and audiences both in the arena and around the world viewing via live video stream. The university will confer associate, baccalaureate and master degrees to more than 700 graduates in the Winter 2013 class. More than 480 of these students are scheduled to participate in the ceremony.

Three valedictory speakers, chosen for exemplary academic performance and community service, will represent the class. Representing the undergraduate degree programs is Shanthi Rajagopalan, Bachelor of Arts in Justice Administration. U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Peter Zauner, Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Development, will speak on behalf of Military Campus Programs and Keoni Lee, Master of Business Administration in Finance, will represent the graduate degree programs. They are among a class of highly educated, profession-ready graduates in disciplines ranging from computer science to education to marine science.