Macalester College is pleased to announce that Laura Coates, CNN anchor and chief legal analyst, will be the keynote speaker for the 2024 Commencement ceremony. Coates will also receive an honorary degree. 

“We are honored to celebrate Ms. Coates, whose pursuit of justice in her career as an attorney, author, and journalist aligns closely with Macalester’s values,” said President Suzanne M. Rivera. “We look forward to welcoming her to campus, and back home to Saint Paul, as an honorary degree recipient and our 2024 Commencement speaker so that our community may be inspired by her dedication to making the world a better and more just place.” 

Coates joined CNN in 2016 and currently hosts Laura Coates Live on the network. On Sirius XM, she also hosts The Laura Coates Show, with a focus on the intersections of politics, law, and pop culture.

A native of St. Paul, Coates began her legal career in private practice in Minnesota and New York after graduating from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the University of Minnesota Law School. Transitioning from private practice to federal law, she served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during President Bush and President Obama’s administrations. She also served as an assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, prosecuting violent felony offenses.

Coates is the author of You Have the Right: A Constitutional Guide to Policing the Police, a 2016 bestseller that advocates for increased police accountability through helping Americans understand their Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights. In 2022, she released Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor’s Fight for Fairness, in which she reflects on her transition from enforcing civil rights legislation to criminal prosecution, and her ability to foster justice in an inherently unjust system. She left her role as a federal prosecutor in 2015.

In her subsequent work as a legal analyst, professor, and radio host, Coates draws on her courtroom experiences. “In that, I have found a new calling,” Caotes writes in Just Pursuit. “When I left the job, I left the files on my desk, but I took the memories with me in the hopes that by sharing the injustices I’d witnessed, justice itself might one day be possible.”

The Commencement ceremony honoring the Class of 2024 will be held Saturday, May 11, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. in the Macalester College Stadium. For more information, visit

April 8 2024

Back to top