Maggie Barnard: 2021 Ford School Commencement

May 1, 2021 0:03:18
Kaltura Video

Maggie Barnard, student speaker elected by the MPP and MPA classes of 2021, speaks during the 2021 Ford School Commencement. 


Congratulations, class of 2021! Those of us
who crawled, sprinted, or glided across the

finish line—I'm not sure who glided but
I’m jealous—we did it! Many of us experienced

two different graduate school lives. One where
we sat wide-eyed, shoulder-to-shoulder in

Annenberg, participating in hypothetical policy
exercises. And another, where we sat with

terror in our eyes, in front of a screen,
miles apart, as our exercises turned into

reality, and we scrambled to analyze the life-or-death
policy decisions happening in real time. Before

we entered the “real” world, the real
world came to us, and brought with it painful

reckonings: We faced a once-in-a-century health
pandemic where weak US policy sacrificed lives.

We witnessed the weight of our leadership’s
discriminatory rhetoric as Asian Americans

are attacked. We watched Americans finally
realize that white supremacy continues to

suppress Black lives. We may not have been
prepared for this, but crisis mode forced

us to adapt and act. Uncertainty became our
constant companion both in our school and

personal lives, but because of the challenges
we encountered, we’ve already learned to

meet some of the world’s biggest problems
before ever leaving a classroom. When the

COVID-19 campus response was insufficient
and Black lives were—and continue to be—at

stake, we went on strike. When the nation
pleaded for poll workers, we showed up. When

elderly were at risk, we volunteered at vaccine
clinics. Many of you did these things while

combating your own personal struggles, whether
it be facing mental illness in isolation or

caring for sick loved ones. But when our peers
were burnt out, we called them and carried

them. We didn’t prepare to meet these trials
during graduate school. But how the class

of 2021 adapted and innovated over the past
year has equipped us to meet the challenges

of our day and more. And how we met those
challenges has prepared us to enter a workforce

that has always very much modeled the past
academic year: messy and uncertain. Soon we

will enter spaces where the efficacy of our
policy isn’t determined by a letter grade

but by its lived impact. We have the policy
tools, and if we endured and accomplished

all of this in crisis, imagine our impact
over the next years, decades, with our newfound

clarity and conviction. Any other year, we’d
ask ourselves: has school prepared us for

the real world? But this year we ask: How
will we prepare the world to heal? Go blue.