The Harvard Alumni Association virtually convened the 151st Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association on Friday, bringing together alumni from around the world, including recent graduates from the Class of 2021. The gathering, traditionally held in Tercentenary Theatre following Commencement, celebrated the global Harvard community and included messages from alumni volunteers from more than 30 other countries around the world.
The meeting included a virtual alumni parade and was filled with celebrations of alumni impact, honoring all the ways Harvard graduates advance change in the world and in their local communities. President Larry Bacow, J.D. ’76, M.P.P. ’76, Ph.D. ’78, shared remarks that lauded the ways alumni helped Harvard weather the pandemic with “creativity, urgency, and resolve,” while connecting with students and recent graduates and putting in “millions of hours of service to causes and communities that are helping to repair our world.”
Examples of this service were shared in the pre-meeting program and featured individuals who helped young people from underrepresented groups access education and social mobility, for example, working with high schoolers to help them learn about and prepare for sollege, or perhaps teaching coding to young people.
Speakers also looked back on a historic year of meeting, and learning from, challenges.
‘Lyrical leadership, like a poem, makes unexpected connections and allows meaning to soar’
The keynote speaker was Kevin Young ’92, an award-winning poet and editor who was recently named the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Young called for people to listen closely to history and practice what he called “lyrical leadership,” especially in polarized times. “We are in need of a history reclaimed and fully explored and of a lyrical leadership that, like a good poem does, makes unexpected connections, grows audiences, and allows meaning to emerge, and also to soar.”
From leading archives and museums, Young said he learned that history should be “a dance partner, one that, like a good poem, transcends nostalgia but that understands it, one that keeps alive in memory things we didn’t always understand, or even know.” He argued that we must break past silences and let the objects in the archive, museum, and university “tell the whole story of the past centuries, and our own.”