2022 Commencement - Michael Barr: Opening remarks

April 30, 2022 0:12:49
Kaltura Video

Ford School Dean, Michael S. Barr, welcomes graduates and their families and gives opening remarks for the 2022 Ford School Commencement. April, 2022.


Welcome, everybody! Thanks for braving the rain with us today. Please, everybody have a seat. It is great to see you all out here. It is great to be in person again, how about that amazing community high school jazz band? We are so happy to have them here. I'm Michael Barr; I'm the dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. It was a pleasure to see many of you this morning at the Big House, and it is my honor to welcome you all here this afternoon on behalf of the entire Ford School community for our 2022 in-person commencement ceremony. It just feels so great to be here with you today! In fact, how about a quick picture?? Here, I brought my phone. All right, on the count of three. We've built this temporary venue in partnership with the School of Public Health and the School for Environment and Sustainability, and I'm grateful to those colleagues for their collaboration. Introduction of platform party   Let me introduce briefly the folks here on the stage with me.   First, our keynote speaker: Mr. Julian Brave NoiseCat. [clap]   Julian, we are so honored to have you here and look forward to your remarks.   Next, please welcome Regent of the University of Michigan, Paul Brown. Paul, thank you so much for being here today.   A longtime University of Michigan leader, my predecessor dean of the Ford School, Provost Susan Collins. Welcome and thank you!   A number of my faculty colleagues are here as well. At stage left is John Ciorciari. John directs our Weiser Diplomacy Center and our International Policy Center, and he will be reading the names of our graduates as they cross the stage. Next to John is Ford School professor David Thacher, here to do the honors of hooding one of our PhD students today.   Professor Kathryn Dominguez, who directs our PhD program. Professor Betsey Stevenson, who has been elected by our graduating students to deliver the faculty address. Our terrific associate deans Luke Shaefer and Celeste Watkins-Hayes are here to my left as well. To my right, Assistant Professor Charlotte Cavaill, representing our undergraduate program leadership, and Associate Professor Kevin Stange on behalf of the graduate program committee. Finally, elected by their classmates to provide the student commencement addresses are soon-to-be Ford School MPP graduate Crystal Olalde Garcia and BA graduate Gerald Sill. [clapping] We're gathered here in this beautiful venue to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of 171 outstanding studentsÑsmart, resilient, public-minded people who will be leading our communities for the next half century. Graduates, congratulations - you did it! I get the honor of telling your families and friends about the Ford School and about you. The Ford School at the University of Michigan is a community dedicated to the public good. We inspire and prepare diverse leaders grounded in service, conduct transformational research, and collaborate on evidence-based policymaking to take on our communities' and our world's most pressing challenges. Yes, we do. Yes, we do. Our school is named for one of the University of Michigan's most distinguished graduates, the 38th president of the United States, Gerald Ford. We're proud of his legacy of principled leadership and courage. Our curriculum starts with a shared understanding of and belief in facts. Today's graduates have learned to analyze complicated data sets. To think analytically. To evaluate costs and benefits. They know their stuff.   We stress communication skills. And so they've learned to speak and write clearly and persuasively.   And we've helped our students learn leadership. Our graduates have learned to listen and talk and think -- critically, ethically, and compassionately.   These amazing graduates have persevered through so many challenges these last hard years. We're celebrating two students who have earned PhDs, one in Public Policy and Sociology and the other in Public Policy and Political Science. Each is doing groundbreaking work on how to improve policingÐintegrating the theory and knowledge from their disciplines and the tools and lens of public policy. We celebrate the 102 students who have earned master's degrees in Public Affairs and Public Policy. They hail from 12 different countries and speak 19 different languages.   It's a strong, supportive group. Through two years of pandemic, campus discord, and strife, they've lifted each other up. They've supported and cared for each other. For most, their first year at the Ford School was fully remote. And yet, with grit and creativity, they found ways to connect, over Zoom, in parks, in study groups. As professional students preparing for careers of impact, they've been motivated and intentional. They've focused on caring for communities who need it the most.   And they've been agile: this class has learned how to navigate classes, workshops, and job interviews using technologies I'd never heard of before the pandemic. They've completed internships or capstones with organizations across all sectors and levels of government. Looking ahead, they're landing jobs that will help them change the world.   Now, I'll tell you about the 77 students who have earned a Bachelor of Arts in public policy. They had not made it to the end of sophomore year when the pandemic hit. They spent junior year taking courses over Zoom, many scattered about the country. But we felt their character that Fall in the form of a major hand turkey campaign (?) in Betsey's class. And that spring, in the form of the great Weill Hall rubber ducky campaign. Back in person this year, they were thrilled to be here with us, but also had to weather the adjustments learning, for example, that they really couldn't go to class anymore in their pajamas. But with tremendous heart and resilience, they jumped right back in, finishing strong and improving our community. They celebrated together this month with a well-publicized Barr Crawl, which was absolutely NOT not named after me. Our grads are now headed to work at top jobs in the public and private sectors. Several will go on graduate programs in law, education, and policy. A large number of them are moving to DC, and I predict they'll have a lot of fun together there.   Taken together, the Classes of 2022 are resilient. They care about each other and about the world.   Graduates, let me send you off with 5 words of advice. And by words, I mean paragraphs. Number one. Work hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. Anything worth doing requires hard work.   Number two. Don't be a jerk! That might seem like one of those norms we've lost in our society. but it's NOT. Be kind to your colleagues.   Number three. Empower yourself. You can do anything. Don't talk yourself down. Talk yourself up. We're facing enormous challenges. You can make the difference. Number four. Find your passion. That passion will drive you to do great things. Number five. This one is about love. Let me start with: Love your team: you can't get anything big done alone. But you don't have to. Find or build a good team, then support each other. If you give deeply they'll give back to you in ways you can't have imagined. I've loved my faculty and staff team at the Ford School. Graduates, will you join me in thanking our faculty and staff? [applause] And let me make a broader point about love too. Now I know we're a school known for our quantitative chops, but for this I'll turn to the humanities, to poetry. I checked it out with the University's lawyers and it's fine. After all, we have a great Writing Center team at the Ford School too. A poet whose work I return to often is the great Seamus Heaney. In his poem The Aerodrome, he recalls being a young child in Northern Ireland during World War II, standing with his mother outside of a busy air field, where American airmen were preparing for the liberation of Europe. He feels a child's uncertainty, but then the warm firm squeeze of his mother's hand. Heaney writes: If self is a location, so is love: Bearings taken, markings, cardinal points, Options, obstinacies, dug heels, and distance, Here and there and now and then, a stance. Graduates, I know when you look back on your years at the Ford School, you'll remember how brutally hard the pandemic has been. You'll also remember we hope statistics, microeconomics, values and ethics, and how to write a policy memo. But I hope that more than anything, when you look back on these years at the Ford School, you'll remember the love. The love of your families of origin and of your families of choice who got you here. The love you've found among your classmates. The problems and solutions that you've come to care about with your whole heart. Over these past couple of hard, hard years, it's been love that's gotten us all through. And so wherever your career and your life takes you, never be afraid to bring that love with you, to center yourself in it. We all know love's the key to a happy life, but it's also the secret ingredient to leadership to having an impact on the world. As Heaney wrote, If self is a location, so is love. Take your bearings, orient yourself around the people and the work and the causes you love, take a stance. Classes of 2022, we're so proud of you, and we love you. Go Blue!