Celebrating the Graduating Class of 2016

May 25, 2016

2015-16 Year in Review:

Commencement Speaker:



Albright to HKS Graduates: Live Truly Global Lives 

With an impassioned defense of internationalism, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday (May 25) urged Harvard Kennedy School graduates to “live truly global lives.”

“You will compete in a world marketplace; travel further and more often than any previous generation; and share ideas, tastes and experiences with counterparts from every culture,” said Albright, who was America’s top diplomat during President Clinton’s second administration from 1997-2001. “You will also learn, if you haven’t already, that to have a full and rewarding future, you will have to look outwards, not inwards. And this is important, because there are still many in Washington and around our country who think of America as an island.”

Albright was introduced by Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf, who was overseeing his first commencement ceremony as dean since arriving in January. Albright spoke to the 541 master’s degree graduates and their family members, who were gathered under bright sunshine in John F. Kennedy Park.

Albright, who left her native Czechoslovakia in 1948 following the communist takeover, defended America’s long tradition of international leadership and accomplishment against those who, she said, would look inward instead. She also advocated for the importance of good government against those who see government as a source of evil.

“When I was a child in Europe … my family was driven twice from its home, first by Nazis and then by Communists – and so I know that power can be abused,” she said. “But I have to point out that, in America, the government is not the enemy; the government is us.”

Quoting Kennedy, Albright reminded the graduates that their purpose should not be “to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.”

She then urged them to treat this moment, as full of danger as it is of opportunity, “as another clarifying moment in our history,” and to resist isolationism, protectionism, and inaction.

“We have a responsibility, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history; a responsibility to fill the role of pathfinder, and to build with others a global network of purpose and law that will protect our citizens, defend our interests, preserve our values, and bequeath to future generations a legacy as proud as that of George Marshall and John Kennedy,” Albright said. “To that mission, I pledge my full support – but success will only come if you summon your best efforts, and if you light the candle that guides us to a better future.”

Graduating Class:

Current and future leaders in public service – from the United States and across the globe – will receive their diplomas during commencement ceremonies May 26 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Class of 2016 is comprised of approximately 551 students, representing 89 countries.

The HKS Class of 2016 includes a lieutenant in the Cambridge Police Department; a lieutenant commander in the U.S Navy; a director in the Social Security Administration; a pastor of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church; a senior advisor to the president of Chile; the first female major in the Korean army; the former chief of staff to the president of East Timor; and the co-founder of Young Leaders for Active Citizenship in New Delhi, India.

Graduate degrees include: Master in Public Administration (MPA); Mid-Career Master in Public Administration; (MC/MPA); Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID); Master in Public Policy (MPP); Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government; and Ph.D. in Public Policy. (Although all Ph.D. degrees are formally conferred by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, they are awarded by the Kennedy School.)

The breakdown by program for the HKS Class of 2016:

  • Master in Public Administration (MPA), 74
  • Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID), 64
  • Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA), 207
  • Master in Public Policy (MPP), 196
  • Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government, 1
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy, 9

Morning exercises at Harvard Yard will kick off the day’s events. A separate Kennedy School ceremony will follow at approximately 12:15 p.m. in JFK Memorial Park where diplomas will be awarded. Both ceremonies will be web streamed live on the Harvard Kennedy School website:  https://www.hks.harvard.edu/live


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered the Kennedy School Commencement Address on May 25, 2016.

"There are many memorials to John Kennedy but of them all, this school and its graduates contribute the most to his living legacy." -- Madeleine Albright


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