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A person in graduation regalia is sitting in a room with dark orange walls. There are picture frames hung up across the wall. One one side of the person is a large plant, and on the other is a full bookcase. A small, translucent black, box in the corner of the screen with white text reads: Noah Mark
Heller faculty and staff, family and friends, good morning and welcome. To my fellow graduates, I want to start by saying I'm truly honored to represent you. I'm incredibly proud of each and every one of you for your dedication, hard work, and initiatives over the course of our time here. While this year hasn't allowed for many of us to meet in person, and has certainly taken its toll on us both physically and mentally, I applaud your ability to keep the bonfire spirit alive and burning strong. Never let that passion and energy die.
I also want to thank the many people that made my time at Heller both possible and unforgettable. Dean David Weil, my professors, the Heller staff, my classmates, friends, and my family. Thank you for pushing me to reach my full potential and for your unwavering support.
Having grown up as a straight white male in an affluent suburb of Boston with an incredibly supportive family, I was shielded from many, if not all, of the inequities and hardships that plague a plethora of people. I took for granted not having to worry about going hungry, or being attacked or treated unequally solely based on my skin color, sexuality, or any other characteristics. Nor did I worry about affording textbooks, medical care, or even basic necessities. And there you have it, a long-winded way of saying I'm privileged.
When I was four, I was diagnosed with Gaucher's disease. Since then, I've been on enzyme replacement therapy that costs nearly half a million dollars per year. I didn't even consider how fortunate I was, because my health insurance guaranteed my medicine would arrive without fail. I saw the world as a fair and equitable place. But that view abruptly collapsed one night while doing my EMT certification-required ambulance ride-along in Brockton. I watched a homeless African American man feign illness just to gain momentary shelter from the cold in a short ride to the hospital.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has made issues like these more transparent, underscoring their widespread impact. While privilege in itself is a problem, the more pressing problems stem from not recognizing one's own privilege and actively using it to help others. Far too many people have stood idly by, myself included, allowing racism, sexism, and countless other "isms" to pervade our world. Now it is our responsibility and obligation to fix them.
As the man who enabled milk to last longer than it naturally should once said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur's seemingly elementary quote speaks to the fact that with knowledge and training, we can empower ourselves and others to find clarity in obscurities and light in seas of darkness. These "a-ha moments" of identifying areas in need of change and championing solutions will no longer come out of the blue, but rather from our preparation. It is thus imperative that we never stop learning, fighting injustice, or expanding our worldviews.
With that, I encourage you to all take a moment to reflect on your experience at Heller. We are well-poised with the tools, confidence, and drive to take on the greatest challenges of our generation. We have learned so much from our professors and our classmates, our case studies and our presentations, yet there is so much left to learn. I don't say this to scare you, but to encourage you to keep your minds open and take advantage of every available opportunity.
Before my Zoom meeting minutes run out, I have this to say to my MS cohort of 2021: You all have limitless potential to effect a positive and meaningful change in this world. I'm inspired by your grit and determination, and I look forward to seeing the amazing things you will all accomplish throughout your lives. You have made this an experience of a lifetime for which I am deeply grateful. Even when the road ahead seems daunting, remember that you aren't alone on your journey. I have the utmost confidence that you are all so much more capable than you may think.
Congratulations, Class of 2021. The best is yet to come.