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University opts for familiar face in announcing Terri Sewell ’86 as 2023 Class Day Speaker


In a video highlighting the trailblazing nature of her time at Princeton, the Class of 2023 Class Day chairs announced that U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell ’86, a University trustee, would be the 2023 Class Day speaker.

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th congressional district. Her election in 2010 made her the first Black woman to serve in the state’s congressional delegation.


Sewell is now the second-most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives with a Princeton undergraduate degree — a group of five this Congress. In recent years, Sewell has played a more prominent role at the University, joining the Board of Trustees as an elected alumni representative in 2019. 

Sewell has spoken at the University on multiple occasions, speaking on a panel of alumni in elected office during Wintersession 2021 and on Feb. 26 answering questions at an event hosted by Whig-Clio and the College Democrats. Sewell is one of few nationally elected officials currently serving to speak on campus since the pandemic, joining Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman in April 2022 and Rep. Andy Kim in Nov. 2021. This semester, Rep. Derek Kilmer is teaching a Policy Task Force in the School of Public and International Affairs. 

In 2020, Sewell also became the first Black woman to receive Whig-Clio’s James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.

When analyzing Class Day speakers from 2001 to 2022, politicians are less common as class day speakers than major artists or entertainers. On March 21, Harvard announced that Tom Hanks would be the Class of 2023 Commencement speaker. 


As a student at Princeton, she concentrated in the School of Public and International Affairs and received a certificate in African American Studies. She went on to receive a master’s degree in politics from St. Hilda’s College at Oxford University and then a law degree from Harvard. Before being elected to Congress, she was a partner in the Birmingham law office of Maynard Cooper & Gale, specializing in public finance law. 

In Congress, Sewell sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the chief tax-writing committee of the House, and the Steering and Policy Committee, which selects committee members from the House Democratic Caucus. She is currently serving her seventh term. 

In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Class Day co-chair Ryan Champeau ’23 described Sewell as someone “we should all look up to.” 

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“From D.C. to Princeton, she works hard to change the world for the better while maintaining the Princeton spirit that we all know and love,” she wrote. 

Co-chairs Zyan Wynn ’23 and Douglas Robins ’23 echoed this sentiment. 

“Congresswoman Sewell represents everything that we should aspire to as graduating seniors,” Wynn wrote, with Robins adding that “Congresswoman Sewell has centered uplifting other people at the core of her work while still being true to herself.”

“As our class prepares to walk through FitzRandolph Gates and scatter across the world to pursue some of our passions, there is no better person than Congresswoman Sewell, who sat in our very seats, to instill parting advice,” Robins said.

Sewell will speak on Class Day, Monday, May 29. 

Sandeep Mangat serves as head News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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