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Billie Jean King delivers speech at NU commencement
by David Thill
2017-06-21

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Former star tennis player Billie Jean King, known for her advocacy work on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community, addressed Northwestern University's graduating class June 16, saying, "You are by far the best generation ever, so far— ever—to deal with inclusion.

"I'm telling you, it's changing, and it's because of people like you," said King, who also received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.

King, whose threat to boycott the 1973 U.S. Open led it to become the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal pay to its male and female champions, expressed hope that women in the class of 2017 "may be the first generation of women to actually see equal pay for equal work in their professional lifetime." At the same time, she acknowledged that that might not happen in her lifetime. "What a bummer."

Citing a Harvard Business Review study, King added that men, too, will play a "vital role in the quest for equal pay." Male champions of equal pay "practice leadership that is inclusively focused, not self-focused," she said. "And because of that, everybody wins."

King finished her remarks by welcoming a group of graduating tennis players to the stage. While the Northwestern Symphonic Wind Ensemble played "Philadelphia Freedom," the hit song that Elton John wrote in King's honor, the athletes used their rackets to hit tennis balls into the crowd of graduates.


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