Dr. Paul Farmer complimented graduating students for their unified efforts to provide relief to Haiti in a commencement speech to the colleges, and he asked them not to fear greatness.
Meanwhile, urban reformer Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., shared advice he’d received from his parents in an address to Suffolk University Law School graduates:
“My parents tried to always tell me that you as an individual can do incredible things and manifest strength. But if you come together with others, that strength can turn into invincibility,” Booker said during his commencement address on Sunday at the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston’s waterfront.
Farmer delivered the undergraduate commencement speech May 23 at the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston’s waterfront, and Booker spoke at the Law School.
Farmer listed recent and historic heroes, including Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Joan of Arc and Nelson Mandela, noting that the graduates should not be intimidated by these names.
“There is something about lists of the great that can intimidate all of us if we fail to understand something important, that each of these great leaders just mentioned has something in common with all of us,” said Farmer. “They were or are flawed. Their greatness was disputed during their times. They were calumnied and pilloried, and in many cases murdered and martyred. Thus our heroes, the people we really admire, are mortal, with feet of clay and hearts that betray at times their better natures.”
Farmer, a physician and medical anthropologist, began a lifetime commitment to the Haitian poor in 1983 while he was still a medical student. As a founding director of the international charitable health-care organization Partners In Health, Farmer has led an effort to deliver health care in poor communities around the world. His work is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.
Booker, an attorney and Rhodes Scholar, was elected mayor of Newark at age 37, promising change in a city that had long struggled with crime, unemployment, and corruption. Under his leadership, Newark has led the nation in crime reduction. His sometimes-unorthodox approach to engaging with Newark’s challenges has seen him living in a crumbling public housing project for eight years and frequenting street corners notorious for drug dealing.
In a humorous speech with frequent references to family and personal anecdotes, Booker told the graduates: “The degree you receive today should not define you. You should define the degree.”
He asked them to look for the positive aspects of a situation, then to seize opportune moments to solve the problems they see in the world.
The Sawyer Business School graduate commencement exercises took place Saturday, May 22, with Wycliffe “Wyc” Grousbeck, managing partner, governor and CEO of the Boston Celtics, as speaker.
Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, professor of Medicine and vice dean of Community Affairs & Health Policy at Tulane University School of Medicine spoke at the College of Arts and Sciences graduate ceremony Saturday at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.