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Apr 07, 2014 08:15 AM EDT

Miami University Names Forest Whitaker as Spring Commencement Speaker

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Forest Whitaker, the Oscar winning actor has been chosen as the commencement speaker for Miami University's spring graduation ceremony May 17, at the Yager stadium.

Whitaker won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal  of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film "The Last King of Scotland."

"As an actor and a humanitarian, Forest Whitaker reflects the energy and the values that define Miami.  We are excited to have him share his experience and vision with our graduating class," Miami President David Hodge said in a statement.

"It is especially fitting to have him as our commencement speaker in Miami's year of Celebrating Freedom with the focus on the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, an important moment in the struggle for civil rights as highlighted in the movie 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' and an anniversary significant to Oxford history."

Besides being an actor, Whitaker is also a film director and producer and works closely with humanitarian organizations.

After graduating from University of Southern California in 1982, Whitaker made his feature film debut in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and directorial debut in 1995 with "Waiting to Exhale," starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett. He co-produced and co-starred in the 1991 film, "A Rage in Harlem," and then made his directorial debut in television in 1993 with "Strapped," a film on gun violence.

"Fruitvale Station," produced by Whitaker's Significant Productions, earned the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Whitaker also starred in the Oscar-winning drama "Platoon"; war-comedy "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Bird," a biographical film on the life of jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. He received the Best Actor award at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the biographical film.

In February 2014, Whitaker won the NAACP Chairman's Award for his acting career and for his role as a peace advocate in violent places in the world like South Sudan and Tijuana, Mexico. Whitaker also won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for his character as butler Cecil Gaines in "Lee Daniels, The Butler."

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