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    president David Thomas speaks at Northeastern’s undergraduate commencement ceremony

    May 6, 2024

    Originally published on May 5, 2024 at

    Morehouse College and Northeastern University may seem like drastically different schools. One is a historically Black men’s liberal arts college in Atlanta. The other is a global research university renowned for its experiential learning programs.

    But they have something in common, Morehouse College President David Thomas said during his address at Northeastern University’s undergraduate commencement at Fenway Park on Sunday, May 5th.

    “It may not seem obvious at first, but both institutions are unique or distinct at what they do best,” Thomas said.


    Thomas, an honorary degree recipient, has a long history of working in higher education. He was a dean and professor at Harvard, Georgetown and the University of Pennsylvania before joining Morehouse in 2018.

    During his speech, Thomas opined on what he’s learned about dreams, purpose and failure throughout his career — from the “dream killer” that prompted him to give up on his childhood goal of becoming president of the United States to his failure to become the dean of Harvard Business School, which led him to becoming president of Morehouse.

    He also reflected on the challenges the class of 2024 has faced, from COVID-19 impacting many of them early in their academic careers at Northeastern to the current global strife. Because of this, Thomas said this class is “stronger than any generation of students we have seen … over the last 40 years.”

    “Yet out of this period, Northeastern has emerged stronger,” he said. “Northeastern’s distinctive competencies in experiential education, its focus on bringing together theory and practice. … There’s more demand for what makes Northeastern unique than there has ever been because they provided a light. 

    “At Morehouse, we have a phrase that we are a candle in the dark,” he said. “In that way, we are a sister to Northeastern. You have been a candle in the dark.”

    Thomas closed his speech by urging graduates to remember to find the humanity in others and “not see them as the other.”

    “The highest purpose of education,” he said, “is to create individuals prepared to protect the humanity of those on the planet, to understand that we are all connected in our humanity.

    “It starts with empathy,” he said. “It is accompanied by respect … and it must be accompanied by courage not just to see people’s humanity, but the courage to step up for people’s humanity — especially in those moments we’re seeing now. … We must all have the courage to step up and protect humanity lest we lose our humanness.”

    Read the full article here.

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