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Jon Murad MC/MPA 2013 had a message for the hordes of nervous graduates he addressed in Tercentenary Theatre Thursday, May 30: Despite the pressures and expectations they feel as newly minted alumni, their futures are wide open.
No one knows that better than Murad ’95, whose “inchoate desire to serve” took him, quite unexpectedly, from Harvard College to the New York Police Department. His Graduate Student Address in Harvard Yard provided a glimpse of his amazing journey.
A native of tiny Underhill, Vt., Murad, 40, studied English and theater as an undergraduate. After graduation, he moved to Hollywood and spent several years finding steady, if not exactly gratifying, work in front of and behind the camera.
“It wasn’t a contributory life,” Murad said, “and Sept. 11 made me come face to face with that.”
It wasn’t until a few years after the terrorist attack, when Murad was living in New York and engaged to his college sweetheart, that he stumbled upon the opportunity to take the New York Police Department civil service exam. At 33, he became a beat cop at a housing project in the Bronx, and steadily progressed to plainclothes work, including a major wiretapping case.
“It was a lot like HBO’s ‘The Wire,’ with fewer alcoholic cops,” he joked. “When it’s exciting, it’s more exciting than just about anything else.”
After a few years, he was found out: A chief read a report Murad had written “in which I had made the mistake of using the word ‘ostensibly,’” a dead giveaway of an Ivy Leaguer.
That chance encounter led to a promotion to the department’s in-house think tank, where Murad joined a small team that studied controversial issues, such as officer-involved shootings, and worked on major development projects like the design of a new policy academy. With scholarships from the New York City Police Foundation and the Harvard Club of New York City, he was given a year off to pursue a mid-career master’s degree at HKS.
“My path toward service required overcoming misplaced biases about what was or was not appropriate for someone with a Harvard degree,” Murad said of his post-College years. “But there’s so much value in work that may not be what we think of when we think ‘Harvard graduate.’”
When he returns to New York with his wife and two children, Murad will once again work the streets, this time as a sergeant. While his newly acquired policy skills won’t be put to immediate use in his new role, he said, his Kennedy School experience was invaluable.
“It’s given me a reinvigorated sense of purpose,” he said.