Former President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada addressed the Harvard School of Public Health’s Class of 2023 at their convocation Wednesday, encouraging graduates to “do what you love, love what you do.”
Outgoing HSPH Dean Michelle A. Williams, who has led the school since 2016, shared words with the graduates before Alvarado took the stage. The event also featured speeches from student speaker Hailey Hernandez, a master’s degree graduate, and Trishan Panch, president of the HSPH Alumni Association.
During his keynote speech, Alvarado — who served as the 48th president of Costa Rica — sought to reassure students who had doubts about politicians’ willingness to follow scientific guidance over other agendas.
“Considering that reality, can we remain hopeful about the path ahead of us?” Alvarado asked. “My categorical answer is ‘Yes.’”
“Tools such as science, knowledge, and service are not the ones failing us,” he said. “It is the human character that has been put to the test and the one that fails or rises to the occasion.”
Alvarado said he was “hopeful” that the graduating class possessed the character to face the world’s challenges.
“Now is the time to go out there and unleash those abilities and potential, to show your character and capacity for empathy and come up with new ways to bring about change in the world,” Alvarado said.
“Be good. Do good,” he said.
Alvarado also touted the accomplishments of his own presidency, highlighting Costa Rica’s decarbonization efforts, which he called a “key driver” for protecting air and water quality.
Following the featured speakers, the graduating class received their degrees. Doctorate graduates ascended the stage in red robes to be draped in their newly earned graduation hoods, while master’s graduates arrived at the ceremony with crimson hoods already fixed to their black robes.
Addressing a sea of graduates and their loved ones seated inside an indoor track for the ceremony, Williams praised the HSPH Class of 2023 for having “chosen a worthy profession.”
“Your courage, your commitment, and your capacity to create a healthier and more resilient society has never mattered more,” Williams said. “You are poised to take this moment and turn it into a movement that embraces health as a human right.”
Williams also pointed to the difficult task that faces public health graduates as they are “running towards the challenges” in a world still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I know that the world is challenged and fraught — and some would even say perilous — but you all are a force for good. I know that you will push back injustice,” Williams said. “I know that you will bring hope.”
“In an enduring sense, this is your time,” she said. “This is your world, for better or for worse.”