Maria Ressa ’86, an acclaimed journalist and 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year, has been announced as the Class of 2020 Baccalaureate speaker, according to an email sent out to the members of the 2020 graduating class by their class government.
The annual Baccalaureate service will take place on Sunday, May 31, at 2 p.m. Traditionally, the service features music, interfaith blessings, and a notable guest speaker and “offers a moment of reflection” for graduating students.
Ressa was selected by the Committee on Honorary Degrees and approved by the Board of Trustees. According to a statement by the Office of Communications, the invitation letter Ressa received included, “Your record of civic leadership makes you 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 the University with a bachelor’s degree in English and certificates in theater and dance, after which she returned to her native Philippines to study journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman as a Fulbright Scholar.
Ressa has worked as a journalist in Asia for almost 30 years, with past roles including CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta. In 2011, Ressa co-founded and became the CEO of the Philippine journalism start-up Rappler, through which she has continuously criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and created a platform for comprehensive reporting on Duterte’s war on drugs and its subsequent death toll.
Due to Ressa’s reporting efforts, the Philippine government has charged her and Rappler for tax evasion and arrested her on multiple occasions. These charges have been described as politically motivated by Ressa and journalists around the world.
In December of 2018, Time Magazine selected Ressa, along with a cohort of other persecuted or killed journalists collectively named as “the Guardians,” as 2018 Person of the Year. In April, Ressa sat down with The Daily Princetonian for a Q&A on her experiences with being a journalist in a repressive state.
In addition to being named the Time Magazine Person of the Year, Ressa is also the recipient of numerous honors for her work in journalism, including the Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Knight International Journalism Award of the International Center for Journalists, and the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.