“Listening will be the hardest part”

Return to main article:

Let me introduce you to a couple of my ghosts. As I stand here, I think of my two grandfathers—Lawrence Crowder and Robert Styles. Lawrence was English, Robert Irish. Both fought in the First World War: Lawrence in the trenches outside Ypres, Robert in the dust of Palestine. We still have a wrinkled photograph of Robert standing in the Garden of Gethsemane after British forces entered Jerusalem in November 1917. I didn’t know either of them personally, but I carry their names in my own, and those images, along with fragments of family stories, have followed me through my life.…

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Richard Lawrence Robert Crowder

[T]here is a sense of possibility which pervades this place, and which can make us each rise to the call of our ghosts.

See also: Full text

For me, that vocation is the work of a diplomat. I leave here for Brussels, to [work on] the European Union’s collective foreign policy. As it happens, I will be working just a few miles from Ypres, where my grandfather fought. When I contemplate the job ahead of me, I realize Harvard has taught me that listening will be the hardest part. It is all too easy to react to what others are saying with our own views. But finding the space in which to digest, and moving to a response which heals rather than perpetuates conflict, is a much harder task. It forces us to accept that there is no monopoly on the truth.

~Richard Lawrence Robert Crowder, M.P.A. ’07, in the Graduate English Address during the Commencement Exercises, June 7

You might also like

Navigating Changing Careers

Harvard researchers seek to empower individuals to steer their own careers.

Easing the Energy Transition

How the Bezos Earth Fund hopes to seed economic transformation

“Out of the Ashes”

A Harvard series explores South Korean cinema in the years following the Korean War. 

Most popular

Sports Medicine Man

Brant Berkstresser aims to ensure sound bodies for Harvard’s student athletes.

Rallying Cries

Steven Choi, J.D. ’04, works—and fights—at the vitriolic epicenter of immigration politics.

A Love Letter

John Alexander follows the ups and downs of funk musician Rudy Love.

More to explore

Illustration of a box containing a laid-off fossil fuel worker's office belongings

Preparing for the Energy Transition

Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.

Apollonia Poilâne standing in front of rows of fresh-baked loaves at her family's flagship bakery

Her Bread and Butter

A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking

Illustration that plays on the grade A+ and the term Ai

AI in the Academy

Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.