Steven Spielberg Named Harvard’s 2016 Commencement Speaker

The filmmaker will address graduates on May 26. 

Steven Spielberg
Photograph by Brian Bowen Smith

Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Steven Spielberg will be the guest speaker at Harvard’s 365th Commencement on Thursday, May 26, the University announced today. Calling Spielberg “a genre-defying filmmaker whose unparalleled creativity has fueled countless imaginations,” President Drew Faust said he “has challenged us to dream and to see the world anew, and I am very much looking forward to welcoming him back to Harvard.”

Spielberg is known for his historical films, among them the 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler's List, which won seven Academy Awards, including his first win as best director. Saving Private Ryan, a World War II drama told from the perspective of American soldiers in Europe, earned his second in that category. His 2015 film, the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, earned his sixteenth Oscar nomination, for best picture. Most recently, Spielberg has been in talks to produce Haunted, a horror film inspired by the classic Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw.

Spielberg has received other honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Kennedy Center Honors, and most recently, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. His philanthropic contributions include establishing the Righteous Persons Foundation—an organization that works to strengthen Jewish identity and community in the United States—with his earnings from Schindler’s List, and founding the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, which has recorded more than 53,000 interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

“An extraordinary storyteller, he has given voice to the silenced and brought history to life,” Faust said. “The wonder of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., the suspense of Jaws and Jurassic Park, the thrill of Indiana Jones and Minority Report, the power of Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, the inspiration of Lincoln and Amistad: these unforgettable experiences connect us to one another, entertaining and inspiring us as they underscore what it is to be human.”

(Harvard officials teased the public earlier today with a 40-second video on their social media channels encouraging readers to guess the speaker’s identity.) 

See a video showcasing Spielberg’s work in 30 memorable shots.  

Read more articles by Laura Levis

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