Wednesday, 18 December 2019

collections of intellectualtalent in the world.What for?

collections of intellectualtalent in the world.What for?


There is no question

that the faculty, the alumni, the students, and the benefactorsof Harvard have

used their power to improve the lives of people here and around the world.But

can we do more?Can Harvard dedicate its intellect to improving the lives of

people who will never even hearits name?Let me make a request of the deans and

the professors – the intellectual leaders hereat Harvard: As you hire new

faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degreerequirements,

please ask yourselves:Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our

biggest problems?Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s

worst inequities?Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global

poverty … the prevalence of worldhunger … the scarcity of clean water …the

girls kept out of school … the childrenwho die from diseases we can cure?

Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s

leastprivileged?These are not rhetorical questions – you will answer with your

policies.My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here –

never stopped pressingme to do more for others.A few days before my wedding,

she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letterabout marriage that

she had written to Melinda.My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but

she saw one more opportunity todeliver her message, and at the close of the

letter she said: “From those to whom muchis given, much is expected.”When you

consider what those of us here in this Yard have been given – in talent,

privilege,and opportunity – there is almost no limit to what the world has a

right to expect fromus.In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort

each of the graduates here to takeon an issue – a complex problem, a deep

inequity, and become a specialist on it.If you make it the focus of your

career, that would be phenomenal.But you don’t have to do that to make an

impact.For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the

Internet to get informed,find others with the same interests, see the

barriers, and find ways to cut through them.Don’t let complexity stop you.Be

activists.Take on the big inequities.It will be one of the great experiences

of your lives.You graduates are coming of age in an amazing time.As you leave

Harvard, you have technology that members of my class never had.You have

awareness of global inequity, which we did not have.And with that awareness,

you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment youif you

abandon these people whose lives you could change with very little effort.You

have more than we had; you must start sooner, and carry on longer.Knowing what

you know, how could you not?And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30

years from now and reflect on what youhave done with your talent and your

energy.I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional

accomplishments alone, but alsoon how well you have addressed the world’s

deepest inequities … on how well you treatedpeople a world away who have

nothing in common with you but their humanity.Good luck.

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