More than twenty years ago, as I was nearing graduation, I instigated a protest against Harvard’s commencement speaker, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Not because I vehemently opposed his politics, or anything specific he’d done, but because he was a banker. Who I expected would bore the hell out of me with some sold-out triumphalist bullshit. Where was Vaclav Havel, I wondered, when it was my turn to commence? Where was any human capable of grappling with confusion and doubt, rearranging my worldview, giving me something juicy to chew on, as I stepped forth into the great unknown?
This year, after Harvard decided to make its commencement virtual, the alumni association asked its members to support the Class of 2020 on graduation day (May 28) with advice, encouragement, congratulations, and such. So I wrote and recorded this speech, in hopes that it would be of use—both to this year’s crop of graduates and to all those wishing this time of turmoil would end.