Marshawn Lynch Announced as 2020 Class Day Speaker

Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020

The 2020 Senior Class Day Committee has announced Marshawn Lynch as the speaker for Class Day, 2020.  The tradition of the Princeton Class Day dates back to the early 1850s, and in 1898 it was described as “a day over which the Graduating Class has full charge and which we run to suit ourselves, in our characteristic way.” Class Day still features student speeches, remarks by the University President, and the presentation of awards. During the 21st century, prominent Class Day speakers come to entertain and advise the class; recent speakers have included filmmakers, comedians, actors, and public servants.

Photo of Marshawn Lynch

Photo by Naim Hasan

The full text of the Class Day committee's announcement to the Class of 2020 is below:

Dear Classmates,

Throughout our time in the “Orange Bubble”, Princeton has not only exposed us to critical thinking in the classroom, it has pushed us to confront the University’s role in the world, and to reckon with our own position within it. Members of our class have contributed to critical historical reflection through the Princeton & Slavery Project, sparked reconsideration of the University’s approach to Woodrow Wilson’s legacy, and joined in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Coeducation at Princeton. Our experience can be characterized just as much by our community’s pursuit of socio-economic, climate, gender, and racial justice, as by our time spent in libraries and classrooms, on playing fields, and in extracurriculars.

We have learned to challenge Princeton to grow as an intellectual and ethical institution, just as it has challenged us to grow intellectually and ethically as people. Indeed, our time together comes to a close as Princeton admits its most diverse class in history, reflecting a renewed focus on increasing admission and support for first-generation, low-income students. We celebrate this progress alongside many Princeton milestones to which we have borne witness, including the 50th anniversary of Community House, the 150th anniversary of the first intercollegiate football game, the opening of the Sustainable Composting Research at Princeton (S.C.R.A.P. Lab), and the most recent accomplishment of being the first athletic program to win 500 Ivy League championships.

When we began the process of preparing for Class Day, our goal was to invite a speaker who embodies the various experiences we have shared as a community during our Princeton tenure; someone whose professional and personal passions speak to the service-focused and intellectually rigorous interests core to the University. We are cognizant of the platform that Princeton and similar educational and cultural institutions provide, and are mindful of those who have been historically excluded from sharing their experiences and perspectives in these places. Therefore, it gives us great pleasure to announce Marshawn Lynch as the Class of 2020 Class Day Speaker. 

Many of you may know Mr. Lynch from his twelve-year career in the National Football League (NFL) which includes five Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl championship. Currently a member of the Seattle Seahawks, Mr. Lynch grew up in Oakland, California before attending the nearby University of California, Berkeley, where he exemplified what it means to be a student athlete, an alignment of our own athletic department’s motto, “Education Through Athletics.” 

Mr. Lynch’s sustained professional excellence is not the only reason we are excited to have him serve as our Class Day speaker. His substantive work in communities stands alongside his on-field success. Throughout his career, Mr. Lynch has dedicated time and resources to the community of Oakland through the “Fam1st Family Foundation,” which focuses on providing access and leadership opportunities for area youth. In 2018, he led the “Phones for the Homeless” initiative which purchased smartphones and service for 3,000 people facing homelessness on the West Coast. Mr. Lynch has also personally invested in Oakland real estate in order to provide equitable housing for those experiencing the dislocating forces of gentrification and rising home prices. Mr. Lynch has become a fixture in Oakland, often supplementing his non-profit’s work by providing free services, like haircuts and recreational opportunities for the community. Mr. Lynch led a summit at SXSW in Austin, Texas to celebrate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who earned distinction in technological development and entrepreneurship. In recognition of the game that gave him so many opportunities, Mr. Lynch has organized countless football clinics both close to home and in locations as diverse as Brazil and Egypt. As an accomplished entrepreneur and business owner, Mr. Lynch launched a clothing line, BEASTMODE, and has partnered with start-ups, such as micro-mobility company Lime, to explore ways in which industry can better serve communities in need.From his stops in the Bay Area, to Buffalo, to Seattle, Mr. Lynch has always prioritized community engagement and empowerment by leveraging his prominence as a professional athlete to promote opportunities for civic engagement and social justice. During our time as students, we have seen professional athletes take up the mantle of critiquing some of the most systemic challenges facing our society. Marshawn Lynch has courageously engaged in these debates, as evidenced by his recent conversation with acclaimed film director Ryan Coogler and rapper J. Cole about race during a Dr. Martin Luther King Day event at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem. He has also gained recognition for promoting financial literacy and advising on fiscal responsibility among his teammates, with his own trademark authenticity. Widely cited as a leader within locker rooms, Mr. Lynch practices a care and concern for others that is something for which we should all emulate. 

At a time when we are reflecting on our Princeton experience while imagining and reimagining our future paths, we are excited for Marshawn Lynch to speak to our lived experiences and the positive impact we hope to make. After all, Mr. Lynch’s career on and off the field touches on so many of our varied Princeton experiences and reflections; he aptly embodies our informal motto, “In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” We hope that you share in our enthusiasm, and welcome him as we conclude our time at Princeton.

We will see you at Class Day on June 1st, 2020,

Caleb Visser                                       Jaylin Lugardo                        Jonathan Haynes       

Princeton 2020 Class Day Co-Chairs