A Star-Studded Sendoff


Tercentenary Theater will host two Commencement ceremonies this spring — the first for our Class of 2022 on May 26 and a second, less pixelated, celebration for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on May 29. To the Classes of 2020 and 2021, especially our beloved former members of the Editorial Board, we are so happy to have you back to celebrate you!

As part of the celebrations, Harvard has chosen two impressive names as the commencement speakers. The Class of 2022 will be addressed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, while the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be addressed by United States Attorney General Merrick B. Garland ’74.

These two speakers will add to Harvard’s long list of influential commencement speakers. From former President John F. Kennedy ’40 (who was a Senator representing the state of Massachusetts at the time of his commencement address) to the more recent likes of Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and Mark Zuckerberg ’02, it is safe to say that graduates of Harvard have historically received star-studded sent-offs.

Having powerful figures with lasting influence on the world in Tercentenary Theater gives a glimpse of what is possible after graduating from an institution ripe with opportunity. In many ways, we think being addressed by extremely notable public figures, from statesmen to artists, is a final source of inspiration graduates are receiving from Harvard before stepping into the real world. As recent graduates sit and listen to the advice offered by some of the most memorable and influential people of our lifetimes, one cannot help but feel that it is left to them to make their own futures and hopefully make history as many of the commencement speakers have.


Yet, this inspiration remains for, the most part, just that: an ideal. To often only see people like Bill Gates is misleading: We are given the impression that Harvard graduates are funneled into powerful positions. In reality, although many powerful people graduated from Harvard, very few Harvard graduates go on to be particularly powerful. The majority of graduates will happily populate the professional class.

However, these influential figures remind us how Harvard is sustained in a way that helps us break those boundaries if we can propel ourselves to do it — Garland was a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. It shows us that Harvard can produce change-makers, but only when we ourselves want to be. In a system that so often makes it easy to fall into pre-built career grooves, Commencement may be the last opportunity to be inspired. Our vision of inspiration here is less so the illusions of grandeur we may often observe from some of our peers, rather, we ask that you, and really, ourselves, reflect more deeply. The safe option is safe precisely because it is stable, with a high guarantee of success so long as we follow the well-trodden path. Yet when these moments arise, we can’t help but think: Take the risk, so long as we get the chance to.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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