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Dr. Rachel Levine

Thank you very much President Smith for that wonderful introduction. It is truly my pleasure to be joining Swarthmore College to congratulate the graduating class of 2021. And it is an honor to receive a doctor of sciences degree and officially call myself a Swattie. To all of the students congratulations, for taking this important step in your lives. You have received an outstanding education, but you've also faced a year of challenges with COVID-19. I would like to applaud your resilience and your efforts to adapt and overcome adversity. COVID-19 has been and continues to be the biggest public health crisis that our nation and the world has seen in over a hundred years.

It has impacted all of us in so many ways in the United States, it has impacted our health, our families, our schools, our businesses, our healthcare system, and local state and the federal government. We are now seeing the extent of the global impact with the crisis in India and other hard hit areas of the world. One important lesson of the pandemic is that we are all interconnected. And we need to ensure that a healthier future includes eliminating health disparities and promoting health equity.

Another important lesson is the profound importance of public health. We must ensure that local state, national, and international public health authorities have the resources, the workforce and the IT capabilities needed to protect the health of our nation, and the world moving forward. Now I am a positive and optimistic person and I believe that working together we can overcome this challenge and build back better. We need your help to do that.

We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet. I encourage you to get your COVID-19 vaccine and help others in your community get vaccinated as well. The more people that are vaccinated the quicker we can put this pandemic behind us. Now know that life may take many different turns and send you on many unexpected paths, but I am confident that your education here at Swarthmore will prepare you for all of the expected and unexpected roads. Please keep your idealism. It will be shaped by realism as well but don't lose your idealism.

Your time here has given you knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge, but you have received other lessons here as well that you will need in your lives. These include compassion and sensitivity, patience, curiosity, and flexibility, and the need to be calm and confident and to expect the unexpected. The metaphor that I often use is the eye of the hurricane. In the middle of this chaotic hurricane in the eye, it is rather peaceful. So in the midst of the turmoil of your career and your lives keep yourself centered. And do not live your life with fear. Now that wise, Sage Yoda, not baby Yoda, Yoda from "Star Wars" says, that fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

Well, I offer my most enthusiastic congratulations to today's graduates. The education that you have received during your time here both in and outside of the classroom has prepared you well for your professional and personal success. I ask every graduate to use the excellent education that you have received to work towards the common good. With hard work and intense focus, your class will help us usher in a brighter future, for our country and the world.

Congratulations, and thank you so much again, for granting me the honorary degree so that I may officially join your impressive ranks.