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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
Harvard’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging hosted Latinx and Black graduations for students across the University’s schools on Tuesday afternoon.
The two pre-commencement ceremonies featured performances, award presentations, speeches from students and invited guests, and slideshows to honor individual graduates.
Notably, the Black graduation also included a moment of silence to commemorate the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, as well to make space for individuals in the audience who lost loved ones to police violence.
MSNBC anchor Joy M. Reid ’90, the event’s keynote speaker, encouraged graduates in the audience to reflect on the “true value” of their degrees.
“Today is about you and whether you wind up doing whatever you want with your Harvard degree,” Reid said. “The value of what you have achieved is not ultimately in how much money it makes for you … but rather, in how you use what you’ve achieved to impact the world.”
James S. Ramsey ’15, who is graduating Harvard’s Law and Divinity schools this year, went on to present Professor Cornel West ’74 with the Tracie D. Jones Award for Diversity, Education and Inclusion for advancing excellence in those areas at Harvard. West — a Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at HDS and in the Department of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts of Sciences — announced in March that he will depart to Union Theological Seminary after Harvard dismissed his request to be considered for tenure.
“Dr. West has a real gift for amplifying the accomplishments and talents of others,” Ramsey said. “In an industry like academia, and in our society more generally, that can be inward-facing, overly competitive and self-interested, and in dire need of integrity, Dr. West demonstrates what it means to embody a better way.”
The Latinx graduation featured poetry from Claribel A. Whyte, who is graduating from the Graduate School of Education. Whyte read her poem “Dreams That Survive,” in which she encouraged her fellow graduates to “dream and fly without fear.”
“Here we are, from all walks of life, graduating from the best educational institution in the world,” Whyte said in her preceding remarks. “We are truly a manifestation of the dreams that our elders had for us.”
In his address at the Latinx Graduation, Marcelo Garzo Montalvo — a visiting professor of Latinx studies and the faculty director of the Latinx Studies Working Group — urged graduates to share the lessons they acquired from their time at Harvard.
“We are the future ancestors of our own descendants, whether or not we choose to have biological children,” Garzo Montalvo said. “You are the conduit, the vehicle, the interlocutor, of precious knowledge that must be passed on to our youth, to each other, and integrated into our hearts and our lives.”
Following the Latinx graduation, Nicole S. Moulia ’21 wrote in an email to The Crimson that the festivities did an “amazing job” at bringing students together.
“Simply being in the presence of my Latinx classmates and professors, even while sitting in front of my computer at home, was a comforting way to end my Harvard journey,” she wrote.
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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