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HKS Commencement Twitter hashtag: #hks14
Harvard Kennedy School celebrates the graduating class of 2014 and takes a look back at the academic year in pictures.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power urged graduates to use the tools acquired at the Kennedy School to help make democracies around the world succeed. Power delivered the graduation address Wednesday afternoon at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).
From the struggles of the “younger” democracies to those of the “older established” democracies, Kennedy School graduates are being challenged to understand what it all means, said Power, who prior to her UN appointment served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Staff at the White House.
“Even as some countries continue steadily along the path toward greater democracy, others have taken some concerning steps back with respect to political rights and civil liberties. Still others seem caught in a rut of tyranny from which even the ambitions and the aspirations of their people have not yet freed them. Your challenge,” Power said, “is to ensure that democracy expands, deepens, and delivers.”
The current turmoil in the Middle East should not come as “too big of a surprise,” she said, “because we know it’s “much tougher to build a system of genuine checks and balances than it is to depose an autocrat.” Of the original Arab Spring, she said, “this journey was never going to be easy.”
True democracy, she said, is composed of a system of checks and balances. “Democracy wins out in the long run because it offers a chance to correct its mistakes,” she said. “It is the only system built on the premise that, if something is not working, people can actually correct it, from the bottom up.”
Echoing the words President John F. Kennedy delivered in May 1963 at Vanderbilt University at the height of the country’s civil rights movement, Power noted that “all Americans must be responsible citizens, but some must be more responsible than others.”
“Go out there, graduates, and use the tools you now have to fix these problems,” she said. “Help make democracy work better here and abroad and remember that you, now that you have acquired new tools, bear even more responsibility.”
The Harvard Kennedy School Graduating Class of 2014: