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Harvard Schools Host First In-Person Graduation Ceremonies in Three Years

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch '81 address Harvard Law School's Class of 2022 in the school's first in-person graduation ceremonies since before the COvid-19 pandemic.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch '81 address Harvard Law School's Class of 2022 in the school's first in-person graduation ceremonies since before the COvid-19 pandemic. By Julian J. Giordano

Harvard’s twelve schools hosted in-person graduation ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since 2019.

The school-specific celebrations complemented Thursday's University-wide Commencement, which featured New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the principal speaker. The past two iterations of the events took place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 addressed the Harvard College Class of 2022 at their Class Day celebration on Wednesday, calling on the graduating seniors to seek truth in their efforts to drive change.

At Thursday’s Commencement, the University’s ​​professional and graduate schools conferred degrees to the graduates.

Graduate school keynote speakers included former Medtronic Inc. CFO Robert L. Ryan, who spoke at Harvard Business School; Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who spoke at Harvard Kennedy School; former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ’81, who spoke at Harvard Law School.

Here’s a look at their addresses:

Harvard Business School

Former Medtronic Inc. CFO Robert L. Ryan delivered the keynote address at Harvard Business School’s 2022 Class Day on Wednesday, calling on graduates to use their leadership skills in aspects of life beyond the private sector.

Ryan, an HBS alum, kicked off his speech by describing his early ambitions to become an engineer.

“The pay was good, it had job security, and I thought it was a world of less than average racism,” he said.

After achieving a master’s degree in electrical engineering, Ryan discovered a career in business suited him better, he said. Near the end of his studies at Cornell, he received a Ph.D. fellowship from NASA.

“This forced me to make a decision that I had delayed many times,” Ryan said. “To make a choice between several years of study for a career that I didn’t really want, or to take a once in a lifetime chance at the career I did want.”

Ryan told the graduates their time at Harvard has prepared them for “leading change in a way that will lead to a better and more equitable world.” He added that his own time at the Business School “changed [his] life in every way imaginable,” citing his abilities to think broadly, subdue racism, and foster business and personal relationships.

In 2004, Ryan launched the Harvard Business School’s Robert L. Ryan Fellowship to fund future generations of students.

“The privilege of HBS is the opportunity to take all that this institution is and has been into an exciting and unknown future,” Ryan told the students. “Embrace that, and embrace your journey, but do it with principle and purpose that come from what you’ve learned here, the people you’ve met, and the family and friends that support you.”

Harvard Kennedy School

Moldovan President Maia Sandu told the Harvard Kennedy School’s Class of 2022 to “embrace reality or be ready to work hard to change it,” during her address on Wednesday at the Kennedy School.

At the same time, Sandu — the first woman to lead her country — said the graduates should embrace the unexpected in life.

“I would have never thought that one day I would be on this stage addressing the esteemed faculty and graduates of the Kennedy School,” Sandu, who graduated from HKS in 2010, said. “I had not planned for that, as I have not planned to become a politician or the president of my country.”

“So beware and be ready for your rollercoaster journey to take you to totally unexpected places and destinations,” she added.

Sandu described her life after graduating from HKS as “pretty intense.” When she joined the Moldovan government, Sandu said her credentials were challenged by the press despite having a career as a civil servant and being a Harvard alumna.

“Many people were suspicious about me leaving a very well-paid job at the World Bank to take up a job which paid 15 times less,” she said.

Still, Sandu insisted that “she never wanted to become a politician.”

“I realize that here at the Harvard Kennedy School — and in other good places — many well-educated, effective managers and sectoral leaders say they prefer to keep their distance from politics,” she said. “I thought exactly the same — up to a point.”

“Up until I decided that I do not want to live in a country led by corrupt people,” Sandu added. “And this did not necessarily mean moving to a different country.”

While Sandu is most well-known in Moldova for combating corruption, her leadership has received international attention in recent months because of a different combat: the war in Ukraine.

“Today, we have a war at our border,” she said. “Moldova has done and will continue to do all it can to help.”

“Nine out of 10 refugees have been hosted by Moldovans in their homes, even before the government provided facilities,” Sandu said. “The entire country united to provide support with everything they could.”

“The compassion, respect, and kindness shown by Moldovans make me very proud of my people,” she added. “The Moldovan government will do its best for the support to continue.”

Harvard Law School

At Harvard Law School’s 2022 Class Day, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ’81 spoke to the graduating class, emphasizing the power of resilience and discomfort.

Referencing recent mass shootings across the country, Lynch encouraged the graduates to “work to save us from this darkness.” She continued on to reassure those who may be feeling “shell-shocked” from the past two years.

“You have developed a resilience the depths of which you have yet to plumb, and a resolve that you didn’t have before, the strength of which will surprise you when you begin to draw down upon it,” she said.

Lynch also referenced recent challenges to voting and abortion rights.

“We see the culmination of years of efforts to curtail the fundamental right to vote, the birthright of every citizen, and here, in a country founded on individual liberty, we’re about to see the reversal of the individual’s right to make one of the most private and consequential decisions of their lives on their own,” she said.

She called on the graduates to embrace discomfort as a necessary vehicle for change.

“Discomfort is not the enemy. Discomfort is the spur towards change. Discomfort is the push towards greatness,” Lynch said.

—Staff writer Alexander I. Fung can be reached at alexander.fung@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

—Staff writer Paton D. Roberts can be reached at paton.roberts@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @paton_dr.

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