Dear Class of 2021,
Today is not the day that we proudly parade through Harvard Yard with other members of our Houses. We won’t be sitting alongside each other under the foliage of Tercentenary Theater. We remember the first time we nervously sat in these chairs four or more years ago, not knowing all that was waiting for us at Harvard.
Today is not the day that we exit Harvard Yard and return to our courtyards to congratulate ourselves and our classmates on this accomplishment. Our loved ones have tears in their eyes, while they hold us in their arms.
Rest assured, that day will come.
Today is the day, however, that we graduate from Harvard. We surround ourselves with family or friends and click to open link after link. We remember all of the Zoom links that got us through junior and senior year and joke about how we’re also graduating on Zoom. We also remember all of our personal links and connections to our peers both in and outside the Class of 2021.
Today is the day we celebrate one of the greatest parts of Harvard: the people.
Though each of us differs in how we arrived at Harvard and chose to spend our time in Cambridge, we still find common ground in the fact that the people are what give Harvard its value. There are only three things that happened by chance at Harvard: your admission, your freshman dorm assignment, and your House assignment. Everything else that happens is by choice: what friends you make, what concentration you choose, what extracurriculars you participate in — it's all up to you. In the past year and a half, we have been stripped of the breadth and depth of student choice that allow us to customize our Harvard experience in a way that gives it the most value for us and our personal circumstances. We lost the ability to fully experience each other one last time. We are now stuck trying to hold on to the details of memories from our first year and second years at Harvard to define our time at Harvard because we do not want this to be our Harvard experience. But it is. We faced a global pandemic and racial reckonings, all the while taking classes, writing theses, working jobs, and leading organizations. Some of us worked on the front lines, helping to develop and distribute the vaccine or creating posters to stand in solidarity as people marched through the streets. We have been trying as hard as we can to not accept this, but we should. We did the damn thing.
As we move on in life those memories may fade, but we will never forget the way that people made us feel — the way that these moments made us feel. As you watch today’s ceremonies, take in every single feeling — how proud you are, how loved you are, how excited or nervous you are for what comes next. Pay attention to the way you smile when your name is called. Notice the way your tassel falls between your fingers as you move it from left to right. Focus on yourself, the people surrounding you, and how your sacrifices and accomplishments have brought you all here today. Today is your day and we are grateful to be a part of it.
Class of 2021, we will embrace, connect, and love each other in person again soon: We’ll take care of that. For now, take a breath, reflect, and get ready: The real world is waiting for you.
Prashanth “PK” Kumar ’21, an Applied Mathematics concentrator in Mather House, is Second Marshal of the College's Class of 2021.
Samyra C. Miller ’21, a Sociology concentrator in Lowell House, is First Marshal of the College's Class of 2021.