“What did you use to take for granted that you now see in a different way? What do you savor most about time in person with your classmates and with your professors and mentors? Think about how you could shape the next three years to maximize those moments because those are the moments that will be with you for a lifetime,” he said.
The ceremony welcoming first-year students to Harvard was the first in-person Convocation since 2019. It was the second such event for the Class of 2024, which participated in an online Convocation last September.
In the afternoon, it was the Class of 2025’s turn to gather. Bacow again took up the theme of community, but this time using as a departure point a teaching from the Talmud on what it means to be wise, mighty, and wealthy.
Bacow counseled the class to resist prioritizing their own convictions and ambition, and instead to embrace community, consideration, and self-fulfillment.
“When you meet that someone [whose views differ widely from your own] — and you will — your first impulse may be to make your point, loudly and clearly. Try to resist that urge. Listen. Ask questions. Prompt conversation rather than conflict,” Bacow said, noting that the Talmud says a hallmark of a wise person is the ability to learn from everyone.
“If you leave this place with your backs to those who do not share your views, you will have failed to take advantage of one of Harvard’s greatest strengths — the diversity and dynamism of our community,” he said.