Harvard University Reveals Germany's Angela Merkel Will Speak at 2019 Commencement

Harvard University said German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the principal speaker at its 2019 commencement ceremony in May.

Merkel, who belongs to the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 but said recently she will not seek re-election when her fourth term ends in 2021.

She is widely regarded as the de facto leader of the European Union and a major figure on the world stage. In recent years, her leadership has been tested by a number of difficult challenges.

Among those are the eurozone crisis, the influx of more than a million refugees, attacks by militants, a resurgent German far right, Russia's belligerence and a turbulent domestic political scene in which fragile coalition governments are common.

"Angela Merkel is one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time," said Harvard President Larry Bacow in a press release.

"Over her four terms as Germany's chancellor, her leadership has done much to shape the course not only of her nation but also of Europe and the larger world," he went on. "She continues to play a central role in confronting some of the great challenges of our era, and I very much look forward to welcoming her to Harvard next May and to hearing what is sure to be a memorable address."

Merkel, 64, was born in communist East Germany. She studied chemistry and eventually earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry from the German Academy of Sciences in 1986.

Around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Merkel moved from scientific research into politics and was first elected to the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, in 1990 when the country's East and West began the reunification process.

Having served in a variety of senior roles in both her party and the German government, including as the CDU's general secretary and the country's minister for women and youth, she secured leadership of the CDU in 2002, then the chancellorship three years later.

"Angela Merkel is one of our era's most globally respected leaders, a statesperson of formidable intellect, commitment, empathy, and principle," said Margaret Wang '09, president of the Harvard Alumni Association, in a release.

"As a defender of democracy and human dignity who has stood by her beliefs and worked to promote stability and peace, she will engage our graduating students, our alumni and our entire community," Wang continued. "I am thrilled she will join us at this year's commencement and look forward to her address during this time when we seek inspiration from our global leaders."

Angela Merkel Harvard
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts after her last speech as the Christian Democratic Union's leader at a federal executive board meeting in Hamburg on December 7. Merkel will speak at Harvard's 2019 commencement. Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images