A note to the Class of 2021

To the Class of 2021: 

As we face the arrival of a unique Commencement season at the end of a painfully unique year, it might be difficult to know how to feel about this quiet ending to what has surely been a monumental part of your life. 

This past year has affected all of us in ways we never could’ve seen coming and highlighted the grim realities of the world we live in like never before. Our nation has felt great loss, and our inequitable society continues to inflict even greater losses on historically marginalized and underserved communities. Our elections and the health and safety of countless children are under attack, and our leaders often fail to bring about necessary and overdue progress.

But even as we were scattered across time zones, it was never truly quiet on the Hill. It is not our habit to shy away from taking on tough challenges, and it is not in our nature to feel like we have to do it alone. Even in this year of unprecedented challenges, there was a community here at Tufts that was vocal and supportive of positive change in the world.

So while it may feel difficult to muster a positive outlook given the current circumstances — the absence of the usual in-person senior spring activities, a university-wide ceremony and traditional celebratory social gatherings — I hope members of the Class of 2021 know that they have been integral to showing others how to adapt to a changing situation with grace and cultivating community here on campus. 

Personally, I know a little bit about going through momentous occasions in the midst of unprecedented times. I began a speech at my high school graduation almost a year ago with something obvious: “This is not the end we imagined.” Now an ironic understatement, I am reminded of it every time I remember that some of my classmates and TAs were reaching that end themselves. Instead of being bitter about the ending they would not have, they welcomed those of us just beginning our journeys here at Tufts and were happy to make everyone’s experience as fun and rewarding as possible. 

A graduation is always a time to reflect on how you have prepared yourself to greet the wider world and how you have grown and changed over the past four years. Even in the best of circumstances, it is hard to feel ready for such a monumental change, whether it is because you don’t exactly know what comes next or because you’re not ready to leave anything behind. 

I imagine that this year only intensifies this feeling, but hopefully, it helps to reflect on the reasons you chose to be part of this wonderful community. We come to Tufts knowing that we have a lot to learn about ourselves, our peers and our world. So while it is nearly impossible to avoid thinking about what did not happen this year, I hope you take this graduation as a chance to think about what you still had: a support system that will endure beyond these four years, the opportunity to learn from and with the Tufts community and the time to figure out how you’d use this knowledge for good. 

A year ago, we could never have imagined what the pandemic would do to us, our relationships and our education. Maybe even more importantly, we had no idea how it would shake the foundations of our worldview and reveal to us how much we are willing to do and sacrifice to protect each other and ourselves. Perhaps, in this moment, you do not know how to describe what it feels like to be venturing into the world in such a historic year, or where to begin envisioning how it will affect your life going forward, but I present to you this perspective: There is a group of students who shared this experience with you. This year, like any other, offered an opportunity for that group of powerful and resolute students to take on the world together, all united by this shared experience even as they stake out their individual paths. This finale to your undergraduate careers may look a little different than in the past, and it certainly involved a lot of Zoom meetings, but the Tufts Class of 2021 is ready to be an impressive force for positive change in any corner of the world. It is my hope that this year’s commencement, while unconventional, conveys to you that we wholeheartedly celebrate you and your remarkable accomplishments. Know that you bring the endurance and compassion of the Tufts community to a world greatly in need of it.