Striving in Times of Strife
Our lives are frequently upended by uncontrolled and unforeseen events that shake our confidence in the future. In that event, we can either falter or become even more determined to engage in action that centers on the common good.
Indifference Is the Enemy of Democracy
I have spent my professional life at Human Rights Watch taking on powerful forces. The task can seem daunting, but I have seen the enormous difference that even a handful of individuals can make. Your generation is perhaps better placed than any previous one to make itself heard.
To the Class of 2023: On Self-Censorship
To express yourself fully means to fashion your own identity. And to do that, the danger of being offended in your identity becomes a vital point: You must be free both to take offense when you are disrespected and to give offense when your own identity demands it.
Public Service Is Its Own Reward
Whether it is in your career or as a volunteer in your community, I encourage you to do something to serve. Advance your career, yes, but also measure your success but what you do for others — students taught, victims counseled, patients healed.
What Kind of Intelligence?
As you go forth from the protected space of Harvard, don’t be afraid of tech — use it in all the ways that enhance our current imperfect realities. But don’t forget the immense power of human collaboration in the face of staggering obstacles.
Celebrating the Stories
This is an essay of appreciation for all the students whose time here has been defined by milestones that they may never share with their professors or future employers. The ones who arrived on campus burdened with sometimes difficult stories, but who then also came to realize that they didn’t have to be wholly defined by those stories — that they had the ability to become authors of new stories, stories of their own.
Advice From a Harvard Elder
Members of the Harvard graduating class of 2023, it is my hope that despite shouldering the burden of debts and the power to reform the education system for future generations, you will prosper.
For a Bright Future, Hold Fast to a North Star
Hold fast to your North Star. Choose it consciously, and make sure it reflects your values. Let it steer what you do and how you serve. As you rise in your careers, you will encounter many different agendas and value systems.
Dexter’s Gate: A Journey in Wisdom
Our lives on this Earth are limited. Often, I hear those at Harvard suggest that we should worry about ourselves first and society later. But my journey has taught me to embody Harvard’s mission as soon as I leave its gates — to serve others by spreading the quest for veritas, the pursuit of the truth. Our time on Earth is too short to do otherwise.
Take Down My Ancestor’s Name
Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was my tenth-great-grand-uncle. This is not an ancestor to be proud of. Yet Harvard has made Winthrop unavoidable.
The Renaming of GSAS Reflects A Deep Pattern of Injustice
The GSAS community deserves to know how the decision to rename us was made, and how the gift will benefit GSAS. We need Harvard to acknowledge the hurt that has been inflicted upon us, and to commit to conversations going forward not only to address that hurt but also to prevent similar injustices in the future. Surely, we deserve that much.
Need-Blind: Why Harvard Hardly Accepts Low-Income Students
Lost beneath the panic over affirmative action’s coming demise, the hidden tragedy of the ongoing admissions saga has been to make it seem as though class-conscious admissions is an alternative to race-conscious admissions. In reality, we need both. My point is not that there is one inarguable conclusion about how to fairly structure Harvard admissions; it’s that the current system has failed to achieve economic diversity, which is a state of affairs we must reject and improve.
The Same Fight: Black and Asian Solidarity
Instead of continuing a pattern of complacency, it is time that we acknowledge the true fight at hand — together. The struggles of Asian American and Black communities in America are certainly not interchangeable. But both struggles derive from the same system — a system that continues to thrive off our division.
Why I Don’t Like Big Words
How we speak says little about our intellect and much more about our past and identity. If we want to truly commit to making ourselves and this institution more inclusive, the expectation that we use fancy words must go. Sharing ideas should not scare people into silence as they worry over whether how they sound will meet our arbitrary standards of worthiness.
Burning in Silence: When Sudan Dies
Corpses now litter the streets I walked just a few months ago, in a city where it is now a privilege to escape from and become a refugee. Yet it seems that the plight of Sudan falls upon deaf ears, our suffering almost an expectation of the international community. There is a perception that this is, and has always been, our normal. Yet I will continue to fight and advocate and fundraise for Sudan.
Statelessness Demands Our Attention
I’m “stateless,” which means no country will offer me citizenship. Please raise the issue of statelessness with a colleague or friend. The more of us know and understand the issue, the quicker we can resolve things for everyone. It’s past time to help people in my situation out.
Stranger in a Strange Band
The thought of joining a band in college had never once crossed my mind until I heard one outside my window. I still have many traditions to learn, and a basic level of proficiency in the trumpet to achieve, but for now, I will happily join my bandmates in tossing shoes and paper airplanes through the air at rehearsal, even if I don’t know what for.
ChatGPT Needs a ‘Problematic’ Mode
With the current system in place, the public can’t determine just how biased ChatGPT is, leaving these biases to express themselves in insidious ways. As horrible as it might sound, I believe that in a designated mode, OpenAI should let ChatGPT show its biased and problematic views instead of hiding them away from public scrutiny. If anything, it might make all the Harvard students currently using the chatbot reconsider how much they should rely on it.
A Message for Visitas-ing Students
I know there are prospective Harvard students who will feel the same way I did during Visitas: who will feel alone and scared, who will feel that they do not belong. I urge you, if you are feeling that way, to not let it linger. As you spend more time here, and you find the niches in which you belong, you will find a home.
Why We Put a Holocaust Cattle Car in the Yard
While taking a class about the Holocaust is educational, seeing a cattle car where Jews were packed like sardines, and transported for days without food or water and only a bucket for excrement, is unforgettable. Touring a concentration camp where Jews were brutally suffocated in specially built gas chambers is very different from reading the number six million.
Cobalt, Congo, and the Costs of Fighting Climate Change
Cobalt mining in Congo reminds us that creating a sustainable future does not end with divesting from fossil fuels, or even ceasing their use. The conversation must go on, to ensure that our alternatives do not leave us in the same situation. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves: Does saving the future of the planet have to mean Congo dies today?
How Harvard Careerism Killed the Classroom
As Harvard transitioned from a patrician school to a seemingly meritocratic one, students increasingly began to view their degrees as financial investments, attempting to maximize return while limiting downside risk. It is this new, pecuniary approach to one’s college education that is to blame for the vertiginous increase in consultants and bankers.
All Europe, All the Time — How Harvard is Failing Ethnic Studies
While the promise of new Ethnic Studies hires is a start, we need more than promises — we need an Ethnic Studies department where professors are afforded the same degree of job security and basic respect as their colleagues in other departments via tenure. Further, to recognize the intrinsic value of ethnic studies, Harvard College should create an ethnic studies course requirement, stamping it as essential to an undergraduate education.
Ramadan Reflections at Harvard: My Oasis of Community
Now at Harvard, a makeshift prayer room recalls those same, precious moments of laughter and conversation I shared years earlier at home. The adhan (call to prayer) echoes through the room, and the community, bustling with people of all different ages, backgrounds, and studies, pauses to reflect and give thanks for the blessings of the day.
Don’t Be Afraid of Moving Far From Home
As the incoming class of 2027 continues to scour informational pages, make pro-con lists, and travel for admitted students days like Visitas in the lead up to acceptance deadlines, I want to offer assurance that distance from home is a factor worth embracing, not cowering away from.