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John Harvard's Journal | Commencement 2009

"Changed Times"

July-August 2009

Latin Salutatorian Paul Mumma ’09 (<a href="">View a video of his speech</a>.)

Latin Salutatorian Paul Mumma ’09 (View a video of his speech.)

Photograph by Stu Rosner

This was a year of “changed times,” President Drew Faust acknowledged in her Commencement afternoon address. She had explored the theme two days earlier at seniors’ Baccalaureate service, talking about how “the world became something very different from anything we ever expected”—economically, politically, and in other ways. Lois Beckett ’09 expressed the prevailing anxieties particularly vividly in her Senior English Address during the Morning Exercises, excerpted here.

How then to proceed? Faust, an historian, and physicist-turned-public-servant Steven Chu offered two strikingly similar answers late in their afternoon speeches. Faust emphasized the importance of sustaining access to education and maintaining scientific research, and then brought up inquiry of other kinds. Chu reviewed the science of climate change and necessary policy responses, before turning to the broader human context.

In another vein, at the Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises on June 2, poet Albert Goldbarth read “Voyage,” on intellectual aspiration (inspired by Charles Darwin), and then a saucier new verse, meant to bring his audience back to earth. And at Harvard Medical School’s Class Day, a graduate/novelist found humor in healthcare.