Fletcher Features

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah Celebrates “Boldness of Spirit” and “Naïve Optimism” at Fletcher Commencement 2014

--Generations past, present, future gather for a weekend of celebration--

Basking in the warmth of a spring weekend and the glow of academic, personal and professional achievement, generations of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University came together to celebrate the newest members of the school’s extraordinary alumni community.

The ceremonies kicked off on Saturday, May 17, with the 11th annual Class Day celebration, featuring keynote remarks from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who addressed new graduates from six different degree programs as well as alumni, faculty, staff and families. Representatives of Fletcher’s Class of 1964, celebrating their 50th reunion, proudly led the procession onto Fletcher Field.

Dean Stavridis: Class Day Opening Remarks

In a longstanding tradition, Dean James Stavridis presented Dr. Shah with the prestigious Fletcher Dean’s Medal, an honor given to “people of extraordinary character who have also had significant impact in the international world.” Describing Dr. Shah as a “superb American leader” and a “great innovator,” Admiral Stavridis presented the medal to a great round of applause.

In his remarks, Dr. Shah praised Fletcher’s own unique vision. “From diplomacy, to law, to the military, and increasingly in the area of business,” he said, “Fletcher graduates are bringing a sharp analytical eye, intense curiosity, and unrivaled passion to the conduct of global affairs.” Citing the impressive number of colleagues at USAID or in the White House Situation Room who studied at Fletcher, Dr. Shah declared, “Nearly every major initiative we have launched seems to be run by a Fletcher graduate…. And I thought all along that I was in charge.”

Dr. Rajiv Shah
Dr. Rajiv Shah

Speaking to the graduates, Dr. Shah continued, “If we are going to end extreme poverty by 2030, it will be your generation that takes it across the finish line. This is your moonshot. And we need you to lead.” He added, “You will certainly find that not everyone would encourage such boldness of spirit. You will hear that your optimism—at times—is naïve. You will be told to slow down. I do have one piece of advice: Be patient, smile when you hear that comment, hear them out, but don’t give up, and don’t give in. Because naïve optimism is precisely what you’ll need—and what the rest of us are counting on if we are going to realize extraordinary leaps of progress that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago.”


Alumni Welcome: 'Our planet needs Fletcher kind of leaders.'

Dean Stavridis, who received his PhD from Fletcher exactly 30 years prior and is finishing his inaugural year as Dean of The Fletcher School, celebrated the “long, unbroken chain of Fletcher alumni.” This chain extended all the way to the Class of 1937, with 100-year-old alumna Peggy Kirby in attendance.

Farah Pandith
Farah Pandith

Farah Pandith (F95), former United States Special Representative to Muslim Communities and member of the Fletcher Board, then took to the podium to give the alumni greeting and to share her excitement for the Class of 2014. “Our planet needs Fletcher kind of leaders,” she said, “Communities require a Fletcher brand of innovation, governments demand global perspectives with a Fletcher training, and businesses need Fletcher acumen and international savvy.” She attributed her incredible path to Fletcher, which developed her interests in contemporary issues from the front pages of the news. “The strength of your experience,” Pandith counseled, “and the exposure to fields, professors, and fellow students will shape the way you live your life and how you influence our planet.” She championed the power of the Fletcher network, and implored graduates to seek its support and contribute to its greatness. “I wish you a life that demonstrates who you are and what you now have the power to do. I hope and expect that Fletcher will continue to be trending throughout your lives” – a nod to her chosen hashtag for the day: #BrightFletcherFuture.

Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy: Diplomats as 'first responders'

Aaron Snipe
Aaron Snipe

In addition, the Class Day ceremony celebrated several award and prize recipients including United States Foreign Service Officer Aaron Snipe, who received The Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy. In his acceptance speech, Snipe followed the great tradition started by Murrow by sharing the “This I Believe” essay he had written as a foreign service officer headed back to Iraq in 2010. He said, as he then wrote, “In the toughest neighborhoods on earth, when the front lines of war transform into the main streets of peace and stability, diplomacy must be first on the scene.”


Commencement Ceremonies: 'Fletcher is a place you cannot be invisible'

On Sunday, May 18, the official Fletcher ceremony followed the Tufts University-wide Commencement celebration, featuring Anne-Marie Slaughter as speaker.

Dean Stavridis: Commencement Opening Remarks

Dean Stavridis opened with the presentation of the Professor Emeritus Certificate to William R. Moomaw, who leaves Fletcher after a 22-year career. The founding director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) spoke with great emotion for his many generations of students and for his fellow faculty, including Kelly Sims Gallagher (MALD 2000, PhD 2003), who will also be on leave for one-year from Fletcher to serve as Senior Policy Advisor in The White House Office of Science and Technology, working on international and domestic climate change and energy policy—issues dear to Moomaw.

Prof. William Moomaw, The Fletcher School
William Moomaw
He conveyed his hope for the future, and laughingly confessed that Fletcher’s graduates are indeed “pawns in a plot to make the world a better place.” He exhorted the Class of 2014 to “go, travel your own roads, and make a ‘Fletcher difference.’”

The 23rd annual James L. Paddock award for excellence in teaching was awarded to William C. Martel, Associate Professor of International Security Studies, who was chosen by the Fletcher student body. Announcing his selection for this honor was PhD Candidate, Rizwan Ladha, who characterized Professor Martel as passionate, dedicated and considerate. Though he was not able to attend, Richard H. Shultz accepted the award and delivered Martel’s speech on his behalf, in which he defined Fletcher’s ‘center of gravity’ as its students, and praised the Class of 2014 as “the latest testimonial to Fletcher’s ethos and culture.”

Dr. Richard H. Shultz
Accepting for Prof. William C. Martel, Dr. Richard H. Shultz

Other awards and prize recipients celebrated over the weekend’s ceremonies included:

  • The Robert B. Stewart Prize for an Outstanding First-Year Student, awarded to Anna McCallie and Caleb Ziolkowski
  • The Edmund A. Gullion Prize for an Outstanding Second-Year Student, awarded to Ekaterina Fedosova
  • The Leo Gross Law Prize for an Outstanding Student of International Law, awarded to Julia Brooks, Amy Tan, and Luca Urech
  • The Peter Ackerman Award for the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation, awarded to Daniel Reifsnyder.

In addition, Juanita Love Davis and Hanneke Van Dyke, co-chairs of the Class Gift Committee, presented a check in the amount of $6,400 to the Tufts Board of Trustees. These funds, raised by members of the Class of 2014, will go toward supporting scholarships for incoming Fletcher students.

Before the conferral of over 300 degrees, graduating students Amy Tan and Robert Lynch addressed their class. Amy spoke of Fletcher’s social inclusiveness and academic camaraderie, saying that “We overcame hurdles and our limitations by asking questions together and finding the answers together, and we found another truth: At Fletcher, we value shared success. In an environment that encourages collaboration above all else, we are there with you for the small, everyday wins.” She continued, saying, “This environment cultivates a deep sense of belonging, and this propels us to be as extraordinary as the people that believe in us think we are.”

Amy Tan
Amy Tan F14 and Robert Lynch F14

Lynch agreed, acknowledging that while the world’s fears may have changed, and he quoted William Faulkner, who said that humankind would prevail because it has “a spirit capable of compassion and humility and sacrifice.” He testified that these traits were intrinsic to Fletcher. “Compassion,” Lynch proclaimed, “is the fuel of the Fletcher community.” These traits, he argued, would help the Class of 2014 to not only endure, but prevail over today’s global challenges.

As the degrees were awarded, graduates took to the stage—some carrying their infant children, even sporting their own cap and gown in Fletcher orange (perhaps an overt indication of Fletcher’s future generations)—to receive their diplomas, amid the cheers of their family, friends, and peers.

Dean Stavridis: Commencement Closing Remarks

In his closing remarks, Dean Stavridis reiterated Amy Tan’s remarks that, “Fletcher is a place you cannot be invisible.” “That is a wonderful, one-sentence evocation of the essence of this beautiful school,” Dean Stavridis said, “I will add to it a thought for 2014: You will go into the world, and there will be times when the world will try to make you invisible. Do not let that happen. Stand up, be counted, and get out there and make some history.”

-- Dallin VanLeuven, MALD candidate 2015

Watch the Entire Commencement 2014

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