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"Doonesbury" Creator to Deliver Commencement Keynote

Release date: May 25, 2007

Garry Trudeau — whose Pulitzer Prize-winning “Doonesbury” comic strip appears in almost 1,400 newspapers worldwide — will deliver the keynote address at Goucher College’s 116th Commencement on Friday, May 25, 2007.

President Sanford J. Ungar will preside over the ceremony, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the lawn behind Mary Fisher Hall. In the event of rain, the event will be held in the college’s Sports and Recreation Center.

Since it started running in a handful of newspapers in 1970, “Doonesbury” has become an American icon, known for its timely social and political commentary and its wry and ironic humor. The comic strip chronicles the lives of an array of characters of different ages, professions, and backgrounds — from the president of the United States to the title character, Michael Doonesbury, a struggling middle-aged single father.

“Doonesbury” has always remained topical, often blurring the distinction between the comics and the editorial page. In 1975, Trudeau won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning — the first time the creator of a comic strip was so honored. Trudeau was also a nominated Pulitzer finalist in 1990, 2004, and 2005.

Many of the political figures who have appeared or been referred to in “Doonesbury” over the years have rebuked the strip. Outspoken critics have included members of every U.S. presidential administration since Richard Nixon’s, and Trudeau was personally condemned on the floor of the U.S. Senate by John McCain in 1995. And while some comic strips that were originally seen as daring and different have become formulaic and humdrum, “Doonesbury” has essentially evolved into an episodic comic novel.

After the United States invaded Iraq, Trudeau made the uncomical decision to maim one of his characters. In April 2004, readers saw the character B.D. without the helmet he had worn since the inception of the comic nearly 34 years earlier. In the same strip, it was revealed that he lost a leg during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Trudeau has created more than 220 strips about this fictional incident, which have resulted in two books. The Long Road Home — with an introduction by Senator McCain — is a for-charity compilation of strips about B.D.’s injury and recovery. The 2006 book The War Within traces B.D.’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder following his two tours in Iraq.

Though the comic strip has stirred controversy over every military conflict it has dealt with — including Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, and both Iraq wars — Trudeau says the storyline of B.D.’s injury and convalescence is meant to be a politics-free “clear-eyed accounting of the sorts of sacrifices that thousands of our countrymen are making in our name.”

To give “Doonesbury” realistic detail, Trudeau has been talking to injured soldiers for several years at veterans’ centers and military hospitals. His genuinely compassionate support for the troops led to another new project, “The Sandbox” — a digest of military blogs whose posts include comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trudeau and his wife, journalist Jane Pauley, live in New York City.  Other than occasional television and magazine interviews, he has kept a relatively low public profile for more than three decades.  

Goucher College is proud to be the venue for this important upcoming public appearance by Garry Trudeau.