These are not rhetorical questions.
You will answer with your policies.
My mother who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here, never stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before I was married she hosted a bridal event at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to Melinda.
My mother was very ill with cancer at the time but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message and at the close of the letter she said, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”.
When you consider what those of us here in this yard have been given in talent, privilege and opportunity, there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from us.
In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue, a complex problem, a deep inequity and become a specialist on it.
If you make it the focus of your career that would be phenomenal. But you don’t have to do that to make an impact.
For a few hours every week you can use the growing power of the internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers and find ways to cut through them.
Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on big inequities.
I feel sure it will be one of the great experiences of your lives.
You graduates are coming of age at an amazing time. As you leave Harvard you have technology that members of my class never had.
You have awareness of global inequity which we did not have.
And with that awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with modest effort.
You have more than we had, you must start sooner and carry on longer.
And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect what you have done with your talent and your energy.
I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deepest inequities. On how well you treated people a world away, who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.
Recommended Book/Course for Further Reading: