Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa has been chosen as the speaker for Princeton University’s 2020 Baccalaureate ceremony, the university announced this week.
The Baccalaureate ceremony is an end-of-year interfaith service that is one of Princeton’s oldest traditions, with its speaker selected by the Committee on Honorary Degrees and approved by the Board of Trustees.
According to the letter of invitation to Ressa, her record of civic leadership makes her “a superb role model for our students, and throughout your career you have demonstrated values of humanity, community engagement and social responsibility that we hope our students will exemplify in their lives.”
Ressa graduated from Princeton in 1986 with a degree in English.
Juston Forte, president of the senior class, expressed his excitement to have Ressa speak to the graduating class.
“In her work as an accomplished journalist and executive editor of Rappler.com, Maria Ressa continuously fights against disinformation and fake news. Ressa’s work to share the truth and raise awareness of unjust situations despite its consequences embodies Princeton’s informal motto, ‘Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity,’ by showing a dedication to humanity and an extraordinary level of social responsibility,” Forte wrote in a statement.
“I am confident Maria Ressa will impart wisdom and inspire the Class of 2020 as we continue to grapple with injustice in our lives and in our future journeys beyond the gates of Princeton,” he added.
Prior to becoming Rappler chief, Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for more than 30 years, with two decades nearly spent as a lead investigative reporter in Southeast Asia for CNN.
In 2012, she co-founded Rappler and saw it grow to become one of the leading online news organizations in the Philippines.
Ressa has received various awards around the world for her fight for press freedom and against disinformation, such as the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the 2018 Gwen Ifill Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. She was also named as “Person of the Year” by TIME Magazine in 2018.
“The only defense journalists have is to shine the light,” Ressa said in a Princeton “She Roars” podcast.
“And part of what’s keeping us safe is because of the coverage that international news groups are giving what’s happening in the Philippines, both the drug war, the information war and the attacks against Rappler,” she added.
Princeton’s Baccalaureate service focuses on members of the senior class. It includes prayers and readings from various religions and philosophical traditions. The earliest recorded Baccalaureate address — titled “Religion and the Public Spirit” — was delivered by University President Samuel Davies to the 11 members of the graduating class of 1760. The Baccalaureate ceremony for the graduating class of 2020 is scheduled on May 31. (AJPress)