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Filippo Grandi addresses The Fletcher School commencement ceremony, and outstanding faculty, students, and staff are recognized.

In this divided and dangerous world, wracked by climate change, violent conflicts, and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important not to despair, but rather to “fight to make it the way it should be,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told this year’s graduates of The Fletcher School.

“See the world for how it is, see through it with clinical eyes, but don’t become cynical,” he said, speaking from his office in Geneva. “Create opportunities for change.”

Grandi urged graduates at the school’s 88th commencement, which was held virtually, to “counter stigma, racism, and discrimination wherever they lie” and to strengthen international cooperation, which he called essential to tackle today’s global problems. 

“The big challenges humanity faces—be it COVID, climate, or conflict—require us to work together ever more closely,” he said, “if we are to truly heed The Fletcher School’s greater mission: the promotion of peace, prosperity, and justice in the world.” 

Fletcher Dean Rachel Kyte, F02, commended graduates for adapting to the pandemic’s challenges and honing skills that will serve them well in the pursuit of justice. 

“In this world where solutions can come faster when we cooperate, where the new rules of governance have yet to be written . . . and where many of the place settings at the negotiating table have yet to be set, you will shape outcomes, wherever you work,” she said. 

Tom Dannenbaum, assistant professor of international law and this year’s recipient of the James L. Paddock Teaching Award, cautioned graduates to safeguard their moral integrity. 

The culture of some organizations may lead participants to rationalize unethical behavior, he said, and “good character and right intention are rarely sufficient to inoculate us” against those corrupting influences. To boost immunity to such toxic contexts, he called for graduates to challenge their own biases and assumptions and to support “ethical dissent” within their organizations.

The ceremony featured the presentation of awards, including the Fletcher School Medal for Distinguished International Service, which was granted to Grandi. 

The Robert B. Stewart Prize for Outstanding First-Year Student went to Jonathan Brandon, F22. The recipients of the Edmund A. Gullion Prize for Outstanding Second-Year Student were Sabrina Rose, F21, and Tomoki Sano, F21, and the Leo Gross Prize for Outstanding Student of International Law was awarded to Neiha Lasharie, F21. 

Bretton James McEvoy, F13, F21, and Benjamin J. Spatz, F20, received the Peter Ackerman Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation. Another doctoral graduate, Jeremy Gwinn, F21, received the Presidential Award for Civic Life.

The Administrator of the Year Award was given to Katie Mulroy, director of student affairs.

This year marked the transition to emeritus status of two professors: Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, professor emeritus, after 50 years at Fletcher, and Jeswald W. Salacuse, dean emeritus and distinguished professor emeritus, after 34 years of service.

The event also included remarks by elected student speakers Lesley Brock, F21, and Neiha Lasharie, F21, alumni speaker Linda Yeung, F91, and Lisbeth Tarlow, F84, F97, chair of Fletcher’s Board of Advisors.

— Heather Stephenson