Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, will deliver the Northeastern University School of Law’s 2017 commencement address on Friday, May 26 at Matthews Arena.
Richards is a globally recognized and respected leader for women’s health and reproductive rights. She has twice—in 2011 and 2012—been named to Time’s list of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People,” with the magazine in 2012 calling her “a role model for all of us as she leads women in pursuit of unfettered access to healthcare and reproductive freedom.”
“I’m thrilled to be addressing the graduating class at Northeastern Law, an institution yielding some of the brightest minds and fiercest advocates for human rights—including those fighting to protect Planned Parenthood,” Richards said. “In a time when the fabric of democracy is tested like never before, I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate a new class of creative, committed lawyers who I hope will spend their careers fighting for social justice.”
Richards joined Planned Parenthood—whose affiliate health centers nationwide provide healthcare services, sex education, and outreach to millions of patients annually—in 2006. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood has expanded its advocacy for access to healthcare and more than doubled its number of supporters to 10 million.
She guided Planned Parenthood in helping shape healthcare coverage and services for women under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, and in 2011 led a nationwide campaign to preserve access to Planned Parenthood preventive care through federal programs.
Before joining Planned Parenthood, Richards served as deputy chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2004, she founded and served as president of America Votes, a coalition of national grassroots organizations working to maximize registration, education, and voter participation.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Brown University, Richards began her career as a labor organizer for low-wage service workers in the hotel, healthcare, and janitorial industries throughout California, Louisiana, and Texas.
“Public health has had no more fearless champion in recent years than Cecile Richards,” said Jeremy Paul, dean of the School of Law. “Her strong voice will provide fitting tribute to the class of 2017, who will carry with them the Northeastern tradition of empowering women and men to work together for the common good.”
Richards frequently speaks and comments on issues related to women’s rights, reproductive health, and sex education. She currently serves on the board of the Ford Foundation, a global organization with a mission of advancing human welfare. She is the daughter of the late Ann Richards, who served as governor of Texas governor and became a national figure.