A Step into the Unknown Commencement at Tufts University


Several commencement speeches made references to a climate of heightened tension and conflict in the country. Jim Lehrer spoke of his observations of the media, while Michael Bloomberg addressed a recent incident involving Primary Source, a conservative Tufts publication which inflamed controversy on campus by publishing content widely viewed as racist.

There is a meanness of communication alive in the land right now. I see it in the mail we get at our program. I hear it on television and the radio and read it in the newspapers and magazines. The controversies involving the immediate past president of the United States and the post-election development in the selection of the current president of the United States certainly heightened that meanness and stridency of the discourse. Be civil, be fair. One of the most serious losses we as a society have suffered in recent years, in my opinion, is that of civil discourse.
And maybe it is calming down, maybe it is passing. We'll see...

– Lehrer, Jim. Commencement Speech, 2001

Respect is so important - especially in times of conflict. You all know what I'm talking about. In December, The Primary Source printed some things that much of this community ardently disagreed with - that many considered quite offensive. But instead of suppressing the publication - and despite the emotion of the moment - you respected their right to express themselves.

– Bloomberg, Michael. Commencement Speech, 2007

2002 represented an important milestone: the 150th anniversary of Tufts University's founding. In recognition of the sesquicentennial, President Larry Bacow announced that a Tufts alumnus would be chosen as Commencement speaker. Pierre ('88) and Pam Omidyar ('89), philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and founders of the online auction site Ebay were chosen.

A major change to the two-phase structure of Commencement was implemented in 2004. In the revised order of events, Phase I included all students and consisted of the university-wide academic profession, keynote speech and President's address. In Phase II, students were divided by major and received their diplomas at smaller ceremonies in various campus locations. Prior to 2004 only graduate schools had separated from the larger group for the second half of the ceremony.