Dear Class of 2022,
As I look back on your time at Yale, I am thinking about what Coretta Scott King said about the value of a generous spirit: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” I am thinking about how these words apply so aptly to you.
When you first arrived here, you made history as Yale’s most diverse class of first-year students. But you then went on to make it again, by earning your degrees during one of history’s most turbulent chapters. COVID-19 split your educational experience into halves, one of traditional, in-person learning and one of unprecedented measures that often separated you, physically, from your professors and classmates.
Few generations of students in Yale’s three-plus centuries of history have faced such profound disruption. While you managed the rigors of your studies, a public health crisis also called on you to come together, and you rose to this responsibility. You took action for the benefit of others within and well beyond our community.
Instead of attending recitals, performances, and athletic competitions, and instead of sharing meals in dining halls over conversations that so deeply enrich campus social life, you stepped up to lead and to serve. You rejected isolation in favor of community. And you showed that although the pandemic could limit the ways you interacted, it could not limit your commitment to serve.
Take, for instance, your classmate who co-founded the nonprofit Invisible Hands, which delivers essential groceries and medication to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. Or consider your classmates who started a company to help senior citizens attend their doctors’ appointments by using telemedicine. Or think of the scores of you who volunteered your time and energy to collect personal protective equipment, make virtual learning accessible to local immigrants and refugees, and help with contact tracing efforts. Over and over, you showed through these actions how to answer the centuries-old call, inscribed in our founding document, to serve society.
The hardships you have faced these past two years will in time pass. But others will surely take their place. When they do, you will know, through experience, how to respond. The humanity that you showed—and continue to demonstrate—during the pandemic will equip you to confront the challenges ahead. And as I imagine you in the future, I hear Coretta Scott King’s words once more, measuring the greatness of this community by the compassionate actions you have shown—and will show again and again.
Class of 2022, you have my heartfelt congratulations and the deepest appreciation of our university community. And now that this long-awaited weekend has finally come, I am so pleased to welcome you and your loved ones to this moment of celebration.
With warmest wishes,
President of Yale University
Peter Salovey is the current President of Yale University and the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology. Contact him at email@example.com