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Remarks to the Class of 2024

To all assembled in this majestic theatre to cheer for the members of the Class of 2024, welcome!

Members of the dazzling Class of 2024, this is your day, a day to celebrate and shine. Congratulations!

We are gathered here today—at the heart of our campus—with family and friends who have traveled from across the country and around the world—to acknowledge achievement, to celebrate the conferral of degrees, and to listen to and learn from our distinguished speaker.

As our ceremony proceeds, some among us may choose to take the liberty of expressing themselves to draw attention to events unfolding in the wider world. It is their right to do so. But it is their responsibility to do so with our community—and this occasion—in mind.

That said, I acknowledge that this moment of joy for us coincides with moments for others that we cannot comprehend—moments of fear and dread, grief and anguish, suffering and pain. Elsewhere, people are experiencing the worst days of their lives. Here and there, we are all human beings, seeking connection and contentment, finding comfort in community and rituals, trying simply—as difficult as it may be—to make sense of things as they are, to make sense of one another and of ourselves.

Sympathy and empathy atrophy without exercise. We will now observe a minute of silence.

Every Harvard Class enters a world in need. Yours is no exception. No matter your field or discipline, you will have opportunities to help fulfill those needs and to make things better. May you continue to approach your dealings with diligence and integrity—to treat others with care and compassion—and to support and encourage one another as you have done these many days.

If, along the way, you find yourself disheartened—or doomscrolling in bed (we all do it!)—fortify yourself with the work of the research university. Having spent most of my career at two of the best of them, I can say with confidence—while admitting a slight bias, of course—that no other type of institution does more good in the world.

Much of what stirs people’s hearts and gives them hope—for longer and better lives, for stronger and safer communities, for a sustainable future—can be traced back to institutions like this one—and to people like you.

Members of the Class of 2024, go forth today in celebration, and wake tomorrow with determination. Meet the world in need with open arms, knowing always that Harvard will be here to welcome you back. Thank you—and congratulations.