Hobbs, whose award-winning writing, scholarship, and teaching tackle the history and lasting impact of race in the U.S., spoke about the Report of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, commending it for its “revolutionary and groundbreaking scholarship” and how it casts a light on the University’s highest ideal: truth. “Confronting truth is a community-wide endeavor,” Hobbs said, adding that in these tumultuous times — when envisioning a better, more just world can seem naïve — alumni can find inspiration in their fellow “talented, compassionate, and empathetic classmates” who “make it plain that Veritas is not just a motto carved in stone but a work in progress.”
In his address to the alumni, Harvard President Larry Bacow described what makes Harvard so extraordinary, citing its faculty, its phenomenal students, and ultimately its alumni, who are making a positive impact across the globe. Marveling at the number of Harvard alumni serving in public office, he noted that they are “carrying on a tradition of public service that is as old as Harvard itself.” He also recognized Harvard alumni serving in the military and alumni contributions to everything from music and sports to technology and business, noting that Harvard’s outsized reputation is a result of the “outsized hope and aspirations of people, all of whom call Harvard our home.”
Bacow also presented Harvard Medals to four alumni — Avarita L. Hanson ’75, William F. Lee ’72, Dwight D. Miller, Ed.M. ’71, and Tom Reardon ’68 — who have demonstrated extraordinary service to the University over the years, embodying the alumni spirit.
Two-term U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winner Tracy K. Smith ’94 — professor of English and of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Harvard Radcliffe Institute — offered a meditative keynote address. She shared her own emotional journey in processing the world around her and asked the audience to consider what it means to flourish in a time of uncertainty. “Might flourishing be the result of living together in such a way that love rather than tolerance, community rather than division or tribalism, and reciprocity rather than transactional exchange comprise the things we seek to offer and receive?”
Reciting poems from Lucille Clifton and D.H. Lawrence, Smith invited the audience to consider what tools we might need to engage in what she called “civic care” to uphold peace and safety for ourselves and for each other.
At the end of the program, alumni in attendance joined together to sing “Fair Harvard.” It was a momentous day for the entire Harvard alumni community, whether celebrating in person or virtually. Many are already eager to attend next year’s Harvard Alumni Day, which will be held on Friday, June 2.