To the 2012 Graduating Classes of Harvard University,
Congratulations! Today you receive one of the most hard-earned and enviable degrees in American education. I hope you know what it’s worth.
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, most of that time on welfare.Though everything was broken—the schools, sidewalks, playgrounds, families—we were blessed to have a strong community and nobody ever told me I couldn’t make something of my life. Like some of today’s graduates, I was the first in my family to go to college. The whole process of applying was unfamiliar to me and totally foreign to my family. When I got the letter saying that I was admitted to the college I most wanted to go to, I called home and got my grandmother on the phone.
“Gram,” I said. “I’m going to college next year. I’m going to Harvard.”
Schooled no farther than the third grade herself, she cried out with joy and carried on telling me how excited and proud she was. Then she paused and asked, “Now, where is that anyway?”
At first I was embarrassed, even a little indignant. In time I realized it wasn’t the prestige she was excited about. It was the opportunity. So, in the same spirit, my congratulations to you are not just for achieving the prestige of a Harvard degree, but for being on the brink of opportunity. I want you to make the most of it.
I hope you will consider staying here in Massachusetts. We need you. With one of the most active venture capital communities in the world and the premium we place on intellectual capacity, our Commonwealth is one of the best places in the world for innovators and entrepreneurs. Be a part of the largest biotech and life sciences super-cluster in the world, or the explosive clean tech, information technology or financial services sectors. Start a company of your own or jump onboard one of our many start-ups. We are one of the top states for job growth—over 130,000 open positions in April alone. Opportunity is everywhere.
If you’re looking to continue your education, we have the highest concentration of learning opportunities in the world: medical schools, law schools, business schools, doctorate programs, research opportunities.
Whether your orientation is toward the private sector or the not-for-profit sector, we have graduate programs to support your interests and expand your understanding.
With opportunity comes responsibility, and I urge you to bear that in mind today and beyond. Each of us is charged with a generational responsibility, that old fashioned notion that we must do what we can in our time to leave things better for those who come behind us.
Earlier generations did no less for us. That’s why we have a T to ride and the Charles River Esplanade to stroll along. That’s why we can receive care in world-class hospitals and catch a game at Fenway Park. That’s why we can listen to Brahms at Tanglewood in the Berkshires and fly to the far corners of the world and back from Logan Airport. Heck, that’s why we have Harvard University and other great institutions to prepare exceptional graduates like you. We have this and more because an earlier generation made choices not just for their time and person but for tomorrow and others.
Deval L. Patrick ’78 is the 71st and current governor of Massachusetts.