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Commencement Remarks to the Class of 2022

To everyone who is assembled here today to celebrate the Class of 2022, welcome!

Congratulations, moms and dads, spouses and children, family and friends—cheerleaders and champions all.

And a special congratulations to all of you who are joining us online. I met with four seniors last week—all international students—and we talked about travel restrictions that kept some of their families from attending in person today. So, to all of you watching this around the world, a special welcome. In fact, let’s all wave to them.

The motto of this University is Veritas. So let me begin by telling you something true.

The view from up here is amazing.  I can’t believe it has been three years since we have been able to gather like this.

Being here—being together again at long last—is moving beyond words. But, to our graduates, you did not get here alone.  No one accomplishes anything on their own.  Please rise, face your family and friends and all those who have helped you reach this special moment, and give them your thanks.

Excellent work. Now that you are settled in your seats, I can share another truth with you.

Something very inconvenient happens when you combine a nation’s worth of graduations with a global supply chain shortage.

There are not enough folding chairs to go around.

I am not kidding—half of you almost had to sit on blankets today.

I won’t tell you which half.

Fortunately, the people who make Harvard run—our amazing staff—are creative, resilient, and resourceful. So now you know about the Great Seat Scramble of 2022.

I am telling you this because it is likely the last time you almost didn’t get a seat. Soon you will have a degree in hand from an institution whose name is known no matter where you go in the world, whose name is synonymous with excellence, ambition, and achievement—and maybe some other modifiers on which we needn’t dwell today.

With your degree in hand, you may often find yourself invited to sit and stay awhile, invited to share your thoughts and ideas, invited to participate, to contribute, to lead. You may end up sitting on a board or occupying a seat of power. Who knows? You may even be standing up here someday, welcoming another class of Harvard graduates to their Commencement.

And what are you to make of that—of the fact that people will make room for you, find a seat for you?

You could take it for granted. You could assume that you deserved it all along.

But what a waste that would be.

Today, I want to challenge you—members of the Harvard Class of 2022—to save a seat for others, to make room for others, to ensure that the opportunities afforded by your education do not enrich your life alone. You will have more chances than most to make a difference in the world, more opportunities to give others a chance at a better life. Take advantage of these opportunities when they arise. Whatever you do with your Harvard education, please be known at least as much for your humility, kindness, and concern for others as for your professional accomplishments. Recognize the role that good fortune and circumstance have played in your life, and please work to extend opportunity to others just as it has been extended to you.

That is how you will sustain the pride and joy you feel today. And that’s the truth.

Congratulations, members of the Class of 2022. You have accomplished great things; you’re going to accomplish even more. Good luck to each and every one of you—and Godspeed.

Now, we will hear from three students selected to deliver this year’s orations.