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Harvard’s Class of 2015 has not had the easiest four years.
During their stay in Cambridge, the current crop of Harvard College seniors has witnessed a massive cheating scandal, the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and a bomb threat that put Harvard Yard on momentarily lockdown during finals. But at Tuesday’s annual Baccalaureate service, University President Drew G. Faust told a crowded and noticeably sweaty Memorial Church audience to “rise above fear and anger by connecting with others, with compassion and with understanding.”
“Your education gives you the capacity to harness fear using imagination—to treat sources of fear as a problem to be solved with creativity, thought and daring,” Faust said.
Faust’s speech followed several prayers and hymns in multiple languages, as well as readings from some of Harvard’s chaplains.
Joking that her task during the service was to “transmit the sober wisdom of age to the semi-sober impatience of youth,” Faust said most media today is dominated by fear and anger. She commended the Class of 2015 for its activist efforts to confront fear and advocate for change in what she described as “the most activist year in recent Harvard memory.”
This year, students have continued campaigns to push Harvard to divest from fossil fuels, blockading Massachusetts Hall for an entire week. Students also marched the streets of Cambridge in the fall as part of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, as well as launching a new arts and advocacy magazine.
“Fear will be with us, but what do we make of it?” Faust asked. “One learns to manage fear, the way we learn any task, and I believe the education you have received over the past four years can not only contribute to addressing your own fears, but has given you tools to lessen the larger sense of fear that grips society as a whole.”
During lighter moments, Faust scored applause from seniors by incorporating references to widely used phone applications, such as Venmo, Uber, Snapchat, and even Tinder.
“Stay connected. Swipe right. Fear no fate. Carry other hearts in your heart. Do the thing you think you cannot do,” she said.
Faust also received a thunderous response when she commended the Class of 2015 for being the first to elect a joke Undergraduate Council presidential ticket.
On Wednesday, actress Natalie Portman ’03 will address the seniors at the College’s Class Day. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 will headline Harvard’s 364th Commencement on Thursday.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
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