Madeleine Albright tells graduates that in these unsettled, complicated times, the world needs their generation to be voices for peace and light
America’s strength is its diversity, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the Tufts Class of 2015 as she addressed more than 3,400 graduates during commencement exercises on May 17. At the same time, she added, the country’s challenge for the future is to maintain a sense of community and common purpose at home, while also serving as a leader on the world stage.
“No matter our race, creed, gender or sexual orientation, we are all equal shareholders in the American Dream,” Albright declared, in a speech that was often punctuated by applause. “And that means we do not fear our differences, we embrace them.” Likening this to the ideas promoted by the university’s Council on Campus Diversity, she stated that “living up to that principle, and valuing fairly the contributions of each other . . . is the great test our nation must pass in the 21st century.”
Albright delivered the keynote address at the university’s 159th commencement, held under brilliant blue skies and beside the brand-new life-size statue of Jumbo that now keeps watch over the academic quad. The university awarded 1,414 undergraduate degrees and 1,992 graduate degrees.
Albright has led a life devoted to public service and diplomacy and, as Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco noted, has achieved equal standing as a role model and trailblazer for other women. When Albright was appointed secretary of state by President Bill Clinton in 1996, she was, at the time, the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government.
“When I tell you that the world needs you, I really, really do mean it,” she said. “For we are living in a time that is more unsettled, more complicated and more in need of a new generation of leaders than any I can recall.
“Today, the international landscape is as contradictory and combustible as I have ever seen it,” she continued. “Technology and globalization have helped bring about unprecedented prosperity and progress for millions of people, but they have also cast new shadows upon the world.”
Among those shadows, she cited the “widening gap between rich and poor, and the growing dangers to the environmental health of the planet,” themes that elicited applause when she again approached them later in her address.
“We must listen to scientists who say global warming is a real and grave threat to our future, and who believe that conservation is a national security imperative, not a four-letter word,” she emphasized. “And we must listen to those who argue that globalization should not lead to marginalization of the world’s poor.”
Addressing inequality, both throughout the world and in America, she said, “I say such unfairness is intolerable, and we each have a responsibility to change it. As the ‘light on the hill,’ the Tufts community has always taken these responsibilities seriously, and today’s graduates are no exception. Through protests and marches, you have made your voices heard on behalf of the voiceless. You have stood up on behalf of workers; you have spoken out against the scourge of sexual assault; you have made it clear that black lives matter; and you have pressed for action on climate change. With the assistance of institutions such as Tisch College, you have shown yourselves to be active citizens.”
The new graduates “are truly the leaders of tomorrow, and it will be your job to pick up the baton so often mishandled by the leaders of yesterday and today,” Albright said. “I insist that you put your opinions to the test and that when required, you dare—as Tufts’ motto suggests—to be voices crying for peace and light.”
The commencement ceremony also honored two Tufts leaders. Dean Linda Abriola, who has led the School of Engineering since 2003, is returning to the faculty. Bruce Reitman, A72, G82, who had a career of more than 40 years at Tufts, many of them as dean of student affairs, is retiring.
In addition to Albright, the university bestowed honorary degrees on six recipients: Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust; Joichi “Joi” Ito, activist, entrepreneur and director of the MIT Media Lab; Michael Jaharis, Jr., M87P, business leader and Tufts trustee emeritus; Joseph Neubauer, E63, J90P, business and civic leader and Tufts trustee emeritus; Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, choreographer, professor at Florida State University and founder of the Urban Bush Women dance troupe.
School of Medicine and Sackler School
The country is still adjusting to the new world created by national health reform and by constrained resources resulting from the recent recession and changing priorities in Washington, Berman said.
“Those of you graduates who will practice medicine are likely to practice under new organizational models,” he said. “You will have the opportunity to help figure out how to do more with less and more importantly, how to make the world’s costliest health-care system more efficient while preserving quality care for patients.”
He reminded the graduates that no matter how the health-care system evolves, they chose a career in medicine “to do good, to help people and to share their compassion. Patients will trust you, will confide in you, seek caring and solace and advice from you. Your compassion and caring will indeed make a difference. That is the ultimate reward.”
Sackler graduates face equal challenges in pursuing new treatments and cures at a time when there is less federal funding for research, said Sackler School Dean Naomi Rosenberg. She said the graduates will succeed if they channel their “fire of curiosity and their need to know and understand.”
Funding is tight, but opportunities are vast in an environment of unprecedented research breakthroughs, Rosenberg said. And Sackler School graduates are poised to continue this momentum.
“You each have found at least one, and generally more than one thing that no one else in the world knew before you actually figured it out here,” she said. “That’s not an easy thing to do, but you’ve all done it . . . and it was the inner drive and the spirit that each of you have that brought you across the finish line.”
Staying optimistic in the face of an uncertain future was also the advice of medical class president Courtney Harris, who reminded the future doctors that they had been taught to keep attention, curiosity and compassion in the pockets of their white coats, so they can always care for the patient and not just the disease.
“Don’t become jaded . . . . Believe in the power of change,” she told her classmates.
Addressing her fellow Sackler students, Stephanie Gilley said that the many opportunities before them also come with great responsibility.
“We have trained to become experts in our field, and now we must be those experts,” she said, both in working diligently to seek new understanding of diseases, and also in defining how new treatments are best used to improve patients’ lives.
The first degree awarded at the ceremony was a posthumous one to Mohamed (“Moe”) Zeidan, a fourth-year medical student who was killed in a bicycle accident in Medford, Massachusetts, on Sept. 5. He was 29 and greatly admired by faculty and students, Berman said. The audience rose to give a standing ovation.
“You all are poised to have wonderful careers doing good,” Berman told the graduates. “Go do it.”
School of Dental Medicine
“The future of our profession is in your hands,” Thomas said, noting that the Class of 2015 matriculated at the School of Dental Medicine the same year he became its dean. “Lift your sails, be engaged in facing the many challenges of that future and be leaders in effecting changes.”
Thomas also commended the class for its class gift, a scholarship that will be awarded to a student who has faced adversity and has persevered to finish dental school. The students have called it a symbol of their class’s unity. Thomas called it “an outstanding example of paying it forward.”
In a heartfelt moment that brought tears to many, Robert Kasberg, associate dean for admissions and student affairs, asked every parent in the audience to stand up and be recognized. After praising the graduates for their work serving the underserved abroad and at home, caring for U.S. military personnel and volunteering to teach and mentor each other, Kasberg asked the students to “think about at least one person who encouraged you when you needed encouragement, who picked you up when you needed it. If you can, reach out to them and share your success with them.”
Class president Austin L. Perera reminded his peers to be unabashed advocates for their patients, the health-care system and the scientific method. “[Patients] trust us with the one face that they have. Who else will protect their best interests? Not the insurance companies, not the author of whatever blog post they just read,” he said. “Be among those to burn the snake oil. Evidence-based research must be at the heart of everything that we do. Every decision you make has to be one we could all stand behind.”
At the ceremony, 192 students were awarded Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees, and 15 students received Master of Science degrees.
Nadeem Karimbux, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of periodontology, received the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching and Service. Ala Omar Ali, assistant professor of prosthodontics and operative dentistry, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching, and Robert Amato, professor of endodontics, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Preclinical Teaching. Jeffrey Marchant, research assistant professor in the department of integrative physiology and pathobiology in the School of Medicine, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Basic Science Teaching.
“The sparkle in your eyes, the energy you are emanating now—it is contagious!” she said as she pulled out her phone and took a selfie with the cheering graduates.
Falcone-Sorrell received her Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance from the Friedman and Fletcher schools in 2001. She is the senior advisor to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum and a member of the Friedman School Board of Advisors.
Being Italian, she said, has meant that food has always had a strong presence in her life. Her grandmother’s first question to her was always “Did you eat?” followed by “What did you eat?”
“So I am biased,” she said, “but if you ask me what is the next big thing, I say food. Not a smarter social app or some stellar hyper-connected wearable material: innovation will come from food—natural, slow-grown, powerful, sustainable food to keep us healthy, ignite our brain, protect the environment, grow our economy, make us happier and renew an ancient bond between all of us and our planet.”
Dariush Mozaffarian expressed his delight in taking part in his first commencement as dean of the Friedman School, which awarded 99 degrees, including 10 doctorates. One hood went to Daniel Hatfield, N11, N15, an Albert Schweitzer fellow who created a successful running program for sixth grade boys in East Boston, empowering even kids who could barely walk a mile to run a marathon’s worth by year’s end.
In his address to the class, Hatfield recounted volunteering at a community gym and being reluctantly pulled into a game of basketball, a sport he dreaded. Seeing that Hatfield kept trying to get rid of the ball, an 11-year-old counseled him that he should stop passing and just take his best shot.
“Those moments of greatest discomfort are the ones that foster the greatest growth,” he said. Nutrition challenges like the impending shortfalls in the food supply and unprecedented rates of preventable chronic disease, he said, “won’t be solved by staying in our comfort zones, or by hovering around the periphery, or by getting close to opportunity and then passing on it.” Take shots when you have them, he said, even when you might miss.
The Rebecca Roubenoff Award was given to Kelsey D. Watson, who completed the Master of Science/Combined Dietetic Internship. Shanshan Liu, who received a Master of Science/Master of Public Health, received the Marianne Louise Mock Dallas Prize. Hassan Dashti was presented two awards to go along with his doctorate: the Joan M. Bergstrom Student Award for Excellence in Global Nutrition and the Irwin H. Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Predoctoral Research.
William Cummings, A58, H06, a university trustee emeritus, and his wife, Joyce Cummings, co-founders of Cummings Foundation, gave opening remarks, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the naming of the school. The foundation supports the school’s One Health efforts to unite veterinary and human medicine, and is active in bringing the initiative to Africa.
Claire Sharp, an assistant professor of clinical sciences, was the commencement speaker. She told the graduates that the hard work of school has not ended, and that they need to work smart and collaborate to achieve the most they can. Sean Gaw gave the class address.
Faculty award winners were Alfredo Sanchez, associate professor of environmental and population health, who received the Artemis Award for Clinical Excellence; Joyce Knoll, associate professor of biomedical sciences, who received the Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award; Lluis Ferrer, professor of clinical sciences, who received the Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence; and Keith Astrofsky, V97, who received the Henry Childers Award.
Four faculty members—Art Donohue-Rolfe, Mary Rose Paradis, Mark Pokras and George Saperstein—were presented with faculty emeritus or emerita certificates.
At Fletcher Class Day, on Saturday, May 16, Charles Dallara, F75, F76, F86, former managing director of the Institute of International Finance and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for international affairs, gave opening remarks. Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was the Class Day speaker and received the Dean’s Medal.
Class Day also featured award presentations, including the Robert B. Stewart Prize for Outstanding First-Year Student, which went to Peter Worth. The recipients of the Edmund A. Gullion Prize for Outstanding Second-Year Student were Anna McCallie and Paula Armstrong, and the Leo Gross Prize for Outstanding Student of International Law was awarded to Emily Goldsmith. Richard “Ches” Thurber received the Peter Ackerman Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation.
At the Fletcher School commencement ceremonies, McCallie gave the class address. The James L. Paddock Teaching Award was given to Jenny Aker, assistant professor of development economics.
Helene Ragovin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional reporting by Gail Bambrick, Jacqueline Mitchell and Julie Flaherty.