Baccalaureate Address to the Class of 2014

May 17, 2014

Family, friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests: Welcome to this year’s Baccalaureate service.

We have just heard a wonderful Wendell Phillips address from Jessica Wilson. I have gotten to know Jessica through her remarkable range of activities on campus. She is an outstanding representative of the Class of 2014.

The members of the Class are today’s most special guests. Seniors, welcome!

Graduation from Tufts is a milestone for all those close to our students. A college career can bring with it unforeseen challenges as well as hoped-for triumphs. Those who love and care for our graduates have provided them with support and encouragement all along the way, rejoicing in good times and offering a steadying hand when things got rough.

As we begin, I would like to ask the graduates to stand and recognize the support… care… love… and sacrifice of the parents… grandparents… siblings… partners… children… and friends, who have made this day possible. Seniors, please give them a hearty round of applause.

All of you shared a portion of this journey and supported our graduates. We are grateful to you for sharing these young people with Tufts, and helping them thrive while they were here.

I would also like to recognize the devotion and excellence of Tufts’ faculty, deans, and staff. In countless ways visible and invisible, academic and personal, they have supported and guided our students. It is a privilege to share the stage with their representatives.

Members of the Class of 2014: As I think about your time at Tufts and your future, three words come to mind: Opportunity, discovery, and fulfillment. I hope that all three of these have characterized your time at Tufts. And I hope that opportunity, discovery, and fulfillment remain the touchstones of your lives in the years to come—both what you aspire to, and what you experience.

In his Matriculation Address to your Class, President Bacow focused on the tremendous opportunities ahead of you as students at Tufts.

It has been my good fortune to get to know many of you over the last three years. And it is clear to me that as a Class you listened carefully at Matriculation. You have followed Larry’s advice and taken advantage of all the opportunities this university has offered you.

You have taken up the challenge of rigorous coursework. In your major—or majors—you have explored a significant field of study in depth, honing your skills as critical analysts, as problem-solvers, and as creative synthesizers.

You seized the opportunity offered by our exceptional faculty for further exploration through significant research experiences. Many of you worked alongside your teachers as Summer Scholars, or wrote senior theses of true distinction.

As for your participation in athletics, the arts, and other co-curricular activities: Words fail me. The challenge for me personally, almost every weekend, is to choose where to spend my afternoons and evenings. It would have been near impossible except for Facebook event reminders!

The time you have spent on Bello Field and Ellis Oval… in Cohen, Balch Arena and Distler… in Goddard Chapel, Hillel, and the Interfaith Center… has allowed you to explore your own passions, creativity, and spirit while building profound connections with your fellow students.

And you have carried your commitment to active citizenship off campus as well, into our neighboring communities and around the world. It has been a pleasure for me to participate in your activities such as Tisch College… LCS… Jumpstart… the Sharewood Project… LIFT Somerville… Fan the Fire… and many other Tufts programs and student organizations.

Perhaps most important of all were the opportunities you yourselves created—for learning, for expression, for action. When you saw a societal need you might fill, you have never let yourself be limited by pre-existing programs. You have been innovative and entrepreneurial from the start.

The best opportunities are not just chances to do a bit better something you already do, or to meet more people like yourself. The best opportunities are those that take you outside your comfort zone on a journey to discovery. And in your time here all of you have made significant discoveries about yourselves… about other people… and about the world.

Some of the discoveries you made were academic. Sometimes this was a question of discovering where your true interests really lay. You may have changed majors. You may even have transferred between Liberal Arts and Engineering.
At the same time, many of you made important discoveries in labs, libraries, galleries, and archives. You added new knowledge to the store by which we understand the world and address its problems.

The career that brought me to Tufts as your President was the result of my own voyage of intellectual discovery in college. I hope that your scholarly discoveries while at Tufts will be the source of lifelong pleasure and a foundation for your futures.

You also embarked on a four-year voyage of personal discovery. That has meant both broadening and deepening your relationships with others. You learned from, and became friends with, people from backgrounds strikingly different from your own. And you got to know very well, a group of close friends.

Some of those friendships date back to Orientation. Others may have started on a team… in a fraternity or the Group of Six… in a performance group… or while studying abroad. Wherever they began, I hope that you have nurtured these friendships as they will prove enduring.

And you discovered the world through study-abroad, IGL, and groups such as Engineers without Borders and BUILD. These are some of the many ways in which you seized opportunities to broaden your horizons. But equally those opportunities for discovery have been at our doorsteps, working with community partners just a few blocks away from campus.

Of course, not all that you discovered about the world in the last four years has been easy to accept or understand. Last year’s Marathon bombings and their aftermath remain for all of us, at some fundamental level, incomprehensible. This year’s successful Marathon was an inspiring opportunity for our community to celebrate resilience with all of Boston and those watching around the world.

If Tufts has been a place of opportunity and discovery for you, I hope that it has also been a place of fulfillment. It certainly has been for Jumbos before you. At alumni events, when I ask our graduates if Tufts changed their lives, all the hands in the room go up. And their individual stories are testimony to the transformative effect that Tufts had on them.

The comments from members of your Class at this spring’s Senior Dinners suggested to me, that the tradition of fulfillment and positive transformation continues into the present.

But even a great institution can be made stronger. During your time here, some of you have been active on campus on important issues because you take your responsibility for our community seriously. I am personally grateful to the students who have helped get us closer to our shared goals of advancing diversity and inclusion, addressing campus sustainability and preventing alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct on campus.

We will continue to work with students to ensure sure that Tufts is a fulfilling experience for all those who come here. My door is always open to students whether you email or Facebook message me to make an appointment or decide that is it time to march into Ballou Hall and demand attention.

The question of fulfillment looms especially large as you prepare to leave this Hill. Many of you are wondering, what path after Tufts will be most fulfilling?

Perhaps it is best answered by remembering that your own journey at Tufts was made through opportunity and discovery. These will be just as important in the next stage of your lives as you experience the world of work and the professions, which are changing rapidly. The patterns of career development and professional growth you experience will be very different from those that my generation expected. Trust in your values, your education and don’t be afraid to yet again experience things outside your comfort zone.

A fulfilling career may not be the one that seems to carry the highest prestige or financial rewards. It may be the one that allows you to address a societal challenge or balance professional satisfaction with other rewards—like raising a family, and remaining an active citizen.

You will also find that your definition of fulfillment shifts as you move through life. This is right and natural. Your voyage of discovery will—and should—continue long after you leave Tufts.

Now, the experiences of opportunity, discovery, and fulfillment may be deeply personal, but they are all nurtured in a caring and supportive community. Here at Tufts, each of you has been part of a university-wide community as well as of smaller communities within the whole.

As you move on from Tufts, you will have to find and build community in new ways. In this lifelong endeavor, I urge you to remember what the Tufts community over these four years has taught you.

You leave campus with the skills to build professional and service communities of deep personal significance and genuine impact. Having founded your own NGOs and business ventures as students, you are equipped to foster productive collaborations in the world of work, and as citizens.

As President Bacow said to you at Matriculation, the only way the world will get better is if good people commit themselves to repairing it. You will find it tremendously satisfying to use what you have learned at Tufts to make a difference.

You also leave campus having made deep friendships. Cherish them. The bonds of common experience and values will provide a solid foundation for these relationships as long as you work to maintain them. Your friends from Tufts will attend your wedding… participate in the growth of your family… and provide a source of strength in life’s inevitable moments of adversity. This has been the experience of Jumbos for generations, and I am confident that it will be yours as well.

You will also remain part of Tufts’ own global community. Our worldwide network of graduates numbers well over 100,000. These individuals, who share your Tufts pride, are eager to welcome you into their worlds.

Many of you have already benefited from internships funded or organized by alumni, and from their sage counsel as you pondered life after college. That support will continue to be available to you, informally and through the resources of the Alumni Association. Take advantage of it.

One of the most enjoyable alumni meet-ups I’ve been to recently, was an informal gathering last month with Tufts alumni who are all studying at the same business school. They had not all known each other before, but their shared experiences here formed the basis of a network of friendship and support that will endure when they move into careers and family life.

Members of the Class of 2014: I hope that the years ahead continue to be filled with opportunity for all of you—especially the opportunity to make an impact and use what you have learned at Tufts to benefit others.

I hope that the voyage of discovery that started here for you never ends. There is always more to learn about the complex world around us. And an essential part of growth is continuing to discover new interests, passions, and commitments.

I hope that by taking advantage of opportunity, and being open to discovery, you will find fulfillment—remembering that in the end it will be determined most of all by the strength of your personal connections.

And I hope that all along the way you will both be sustained by community, and help build and renew it—just as you have here at Tufts.

At tomorrow’s Commencement the entire university and its guests will recognize all you have accomplished. While many people have helped along the way, you deserve our respect and admiration for all that you have done.

Congratulations, members of the Tufts University Class of 2014!

Thank you.