The Senior Class Committee announced the four members of the graduating Class of 2017 who will be sharing the stage with former Vice President of the United States Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on May 24 for the College’s annual Class Day celebrations.
Jonathan S. Roberts ’17 and Bessie X. Zhang ’17 will deliver the Harvard orations at the festivities, and Rachel J. Stromberg ’17 and Declan P. Garvey ’17 will present the Ivy orations.
The Harvard orations are more formal graduation speeches, where speakers often reflect on their time at the College, while the Ivy orations provide seniors a chance to add humor to the proceedings. A male and female speaker are chosen for each style of speech.
The four orators will join Biden, who was announced Class Day speaker last week. They were selected by a subcommittee of the Senior Class Committee led by program marshals Avni Nahar ’17 and Victoria H. Jones ’17.
Out of all the applicants who submitted a speech to the subcommittee, Nahar—an inactive Crimson editor—said the group narrowed the field down to ten potential Harvard orators and ten potential Ivy orators before settling on the final four speakers.
“We had a really hard time picking the final four speeches—there were just so many that were truly, truly great,” Nahar said. “We think these four speakers will be an incredible complement in addition to Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks.”
Standing in Tercentenary Theatre a month ahead of Class Day, the speakers assembled on Monday to talk about the inspiration for their speeches and the messages they hope to impart to fellow seniors.
Roberts’ said his family has inspired his oration, which will focus on reconciling his Harvard experience with the larger world.
“I think we will leave here being very good at being successful automatons, but not necessarily great at sharing humanity and sharing community between one another,” Roberts said. “A lot of my speech talks about both the pain we experience here, the pain we often fail to confront here, but also, hopefully, instilling a sense of trust for the pain of others.”
Zhang said her speech will reflect some of the lessons she learned at the College.
“It’s a speech that responds to the expectations placed on us as Harvard graduates to be the ones always voicing our opinions and leading the way, and kind of hoping to take a step back from that,” Zhang said.
Garvey, a former Crimson editorial editor, previewed his Ivy oration by talking about the role of failure, especially the lack of it, that plays in experiences of students before and during their time at the College.
“I’m trying to find the humor in that we’re all graduating from Harvard, and by that measure of success, none of us are failing by any means,” Garvey said. “But, day to day, and relative to our peers here, there are always going to be places where we fall short.”
Reflecting on her time at Harvard, Stromberg said she intends to convey the sense of nostalgia that comes with graduation. True to the humorous style of Ivy orations, Stromberg also joked that she is planning on scrapping her original speech and writing a roast of Biden instead.
“My speech is mostly about conspiracy theories, so that’s what I’ll stick with,” she said.