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Fletcher's 2019 Graduation Celebration

Commencement speakers call upon Fletcher graduates to pursue lives of service.
“No matter how noble our intentions are, we cannot hope to make the world a better place if we are not actively and consistently thinking about making our communities better, too,” said class speaker Latifah Azlan.

Earning a degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy conveys power that graduates should use to do good in the world, said Kimberly Theidon during the school’s eighty-sixth commencement ceremony.

“When we study the Holocaust and subsequent mass atrocities, we note time and again that the malfeasance and abhorrent acts of a few were made possible by the silence and complicity of the many around them,” said Theidon, who is the Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies at Fletcher and was selected by students to receive the James L. Paddock Teaching Award. Yet, “I imagine all of us in this room would wish to be counted among those who used whatever power or privilege they had to do the right thing in tough times.”

To demonstrate her point, Theidon asked the gathered students, faculty, and family members to stand up if they believed “climate change is real and we should be doing something about it.” As virtually everyone in the crowd rose to loud applause, she called on them to stand up for other beliefs, such as “equal rights for all people, all genders” and the principle that “immigrants are human beings and that no child belongs in a cage.” Theidon urged them to look around at the hundreds of people standing in the tent. “This is a social movement in the making,” she said. “This is power. This is what change looks like.”

At the ceremony, 190 graduates received degrees, including 135 Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy degrees, 12 Master of International Business degrees, 18 Master of Arts degrees, 15 Master of Laws in International Law degrees, 4 Master of Arts in Transatlantic Affairs degrees, and 6 Ph.D.s. The graduates joined more than 10,000 alumni of The Fletcher School in more than 150 countries, who are all “making this world safer, healthier, and more just,” said Dean ad interim Ian Johnstone.

The two class speakers challenged their fellow graduates to think critically about what they had learned and show leadership in sharing that knowledge. “Whether you end up working in the marbled halls of your capital cities or the dirt roads in the corners of the world, know that you have the tools to help and serve others,” said Pedro Cárdenas Casillas, F19, a student from Mexico who received the Tufts Presidential Award for Civic Life. Quoting novelist Isabel Allende, he added, “Give. Give. Give. . . . It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world, and with the divine.”

While Fletcher students share great ambitions, such as standing up for human rights and eradicating poverty, class speaker Latifah Azlan, F19, an Honos Civicus Society member who is from Malaysia, said she learned at the school that “advocacy begins in our immediate surroundings.” She added, “No matter how noble our intentions are, we cannot hope to make the world a better place if we are not actively and consistently thinking about making our communities better, too.”

At Fletcher Class Day on May 18 the keynote speaker was Susan Rice, former U.S. National Security Advisor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Vikram Mehta, F79, a member of the Fletcher Board of Advisors and executive chairman of Brookings India, offered the alumni greeting.

The day also featured the presentation of awards, including the Robert B. Stewart Prize for Outstanding First-Year Student, which went to Aesclinn Donohue and Madison Chapman. The recipients of the Edmund A. Gullion Prize for Outstanding Second-Year Student were Christina Klotz and Daniel Tobin, and the Leo Gross Prize for Outstanding Student of International Law was awarded to Caroline “Nicky” Armstrong Hall and Odyne Berger. Phoebe Donnelly and Shahla Waliy Mohamad Al Kli received the Peter Ackerman Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation. The Administrator of the Year Award was given to administrative coordinator Lupita Ervin.

Excerpted from Tufts Now. Read full coverage of the 2019 Tufts commencement.

Learn more about Fletcher's Class Day speaker Ambassador Susan Rice.