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Holder to address graduates as keynote speaker for UW–Madison spring commencement

April 19, 2023 By Doug Erickson

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver the keynote address to graduates at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s 2023 spring commencement ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium on May 13.

Holder served as the country’s 82nd attorney general from February 2009 to April 2015. He was the third-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history and the first African American to hold that office.

“It will be a great honor to welcome Attorney General Holder to Camp Randall,” says Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin. “He is an accomplished attorney and internationally recognized leader with an impressive history of public service. I know his charge to our graduates will be thought-provoking and inspiring.”

Eric Holder

In 2014, Time magazine named Holder to its list of the 100 Most Influential People, noting that he had “worked tirelessly to ensure equal justice.” In 2015, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund named him the recipient of its Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his lifelong efforts to advance civil rights.

Commencement speakers are selected by the senior class officers in consultation with the Chancellor’s Office. The university covers the speaker’s travel expenses but does not pay a fee or other honorarium.

“When we were discussing potential speakers for our commencement ceremony, the Senior Class Office was drawn to Attorney General Holder’s leadership and legacy,” says Liam McLean, senior class president. “Attorney General Holder is a trailblazer whose drive for excellence and humanity as a public servant aligns perfectly with our values as a university to shape a better world than the one we found. We are thrilled that he accepted our invitation to address the UW–Madison Class of 2023.”

Holder has visited UW–Madison’s campus before, notably as the keynote speaker for the 2016 UW Law School hooding ceremony. In 2020, his daughter Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UW.

A native of New York City, Holder is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School. He served in government for more than 30 years, having been appointed to various positions requiring U.S. Senate confirmation by presidents Obama, Clinton and Reagan.

Prior to becoming attorney general, Holder worked as an investigator and prosecutor of official corruption for the U.S. Department of Justice, as a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and as the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. From 2001 until his confirmation as attorney general, Holder was a partner at Covington & Burling LLP. He rejoined the firm in 2015. He currently serves as chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

Holder is the author, with Sam Koppelman, of “Our Unfinished March: The Violent Past and Imperiled Future of the Vote — a History, a Crisis, a Plan.”

Holder will speak at noon on May 13 at Camp Randall Stadium. The ceremony is for all bachelor’s, master’s and law degree candidates. The ceremony for doctoral, MFA and medical professional degree candidates will be at 5:30 p.m. on May 12 at the Kohl Center. More information is available at