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May 27, 2022

Family and friends, faculty and staff, returning alumni, distinguished guests and, of course, our most special attendees today, the graduates of the Class of 2020, now Tufts Alumni! Good morning and welcome to the Class of 2020 Commencement Ceremonies.

This is a day of great joy and celebration. Thank you for travelling from near and far.

Two years ago, your final year in your program of study was abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you were getting ready to enjoy Spring Fling, planning for Senior Week, and finishing out your academic requirements, a completely unforeseen event interrupted your lives. What was supposed to be one of the happiest times of your college careers ended up being one of uncertainty and loss.

When we granted your degrees two years ago in a virtual conferral ceremony, I had mentioned that Tufts was proud in the way all of you had spent your time as students at Tufts – pursuing rigorous courses of study, doing research, performing community service, competing on our athletic teams, and participating in clubs and extracurricular activities. In the two years since you left this hill, you have made us all prouder still, in the way you have used the education, skills, and tools you gained at Tufts to serve humanity through the various vocations you have chosen, or the graduate and professional courses of study you are pursuing or being active citizens of the world, wherever you may be.

Being active citizens has long been an integral part of the Tufts mission. But it has taken on a whole new meaning and urgency in recent weeks as we have witnessed senseless gun violence and death in a Buffalo supermarket, a California church, a Texas elementary school, and numerous other locales that don’t make the national news. We mourn those we have lost and we grieve for their families. But words are empty if not paired with action.

At Tufts, we strive to equip our graduates with the skill, vision, and moral compass to act. To make meaningful and lasting change, we all need to be active citizens individually and collectively. We need to be active citizens to increase voter participation, to hold our representatives accountable, and to advocate for just laws and the just application of laws.

That is the kind of active citizenship that is instilled by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, and which is reflected in all our honorees today. That is how we will keep our democracy strong and working in a multiracial society. This work is not easy, but as we have seen over the past few weeks, it is more necessary than ever. I am certain that Tufts has prepared you all to do it well, and I challenge you yet again to engage with the issues of our time actionably, to reach consensus across divides, and identify equitable solutions to create a better society today and for future generations.

While as an institution we had promised your class that we will celebrate your accomplishments appropriately back on campus, we did not know quite what to expect or how many of you would choose to return.

But the Class of 2020 has showed us today that they stick together, and similar to our beloved mascot Jumbo, have returned back to the Hill together as a massive Herd.

I am thrilled to welcome this amazing outpouring of 2020 graduates back to our beautiful campus. Let me invite everyone to stand and give these remarkable individuals a round of applause.

Let me take a moment to also applaud all the parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, partners, children, friends, and mentors who supported the Class of 2020 during their time at Tufts and for the two years from the time they graduated till today.

Let me also take a moment to recognize the devotion and excellence of our faculty, deans, coaches, advisors, counselors, and staff members who pivoted quickly to remote and virtual instruction and enabled the Class of 2020 to finish their requirements and graduate on time, despite the sudden interruption to the academic year.

Once again, welcome everyone. Today is indeed a happy day for Tufts and for the graduates of the Class of 2020.