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Eric H. Holder, Jr., to Be Honored at Commencement

U.S. attorney general will receive honorary Doctor of Laws


Eric Holder, one of the more visible U.S. attorneys general in recent years, will give the Commencement address at the all-University ceremony on Sunday and earlier in the day will speak at the School of Law’s convocation.

In the last two weeks, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., has made headlines around the world, announcing the arrest of the Times Square bombing suspect, suggesting a link between the attempted bombing and the Pakistan Taliban, and signaling that the Obama administration would consider loosening some Miranda protections.

On Sunday, the nation’s top law enforcement officer will take center stage at the University’s 137th Commencement exercises at Nickerson Field, where he will deliver the Commencement address to more than 5,000 graduates and 20,000 guests. Holder also will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. Earlier in the day, he will give the School of Law’s convocation address at Agganis Arena.

Holder is one of the more visible U.S. attorneys general in recent years. In a speech in February of last year, just two weeks after he was sworn in, he called the United States “a nation of cowards” on issues of race. Last month, he criticized Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, expressing concern that the law could lead to racial profiling and intimating that the Obama administration is considering a legal challenge to the law. And on May 3, Holder stepped quickly into the spotlight following the capture and arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who allegedly tried to set off a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square.

He has also come under criticism, particularly for his handling of terrorism matters. His decision last November to try the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks in a civilian court in Lower Manhattan rather than in a military tribunal came under fire from Senate Republicans. The location has not yet been determined.

Holder’s recent statement that the administration is considering loosening the Miranda rules for suspected terrorists was met with immediate push back from the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that legislation that undermines Miranda would be unconstitutional.

Before he was appointed attorney general, Holder was a litigation partner at Covington & Burling, LLP, in Washington, D.C. Previously, he served as deputy attorney general — the first African-American to hold the post — under President Bill Clinton and as an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia under President Ronald Reagan. He earned an undergraduate degree at Columbia College and a law degree at Columbia Law School.

Eric Holder is one of five honorary degree recipients at this year’s Commencement. Playwright Edward Albee will be awarded a Doctor of Letters. Osamu Shimomura, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist and a School of Medicine professor emeritus of physiology, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science. Attorney William T. Coleman, Jr., a champion of civil rights, will receive a Doctor of Laws. Wafaa El-Sadr, a pioneering AIDS researcher, will be presented with a Doctor of Science.

Cynthia K. Buccini can be reached at cbuccini@bu.edu.

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