MPP Commencement Speaker: Adam Jones ’15, MPP’22

May 22, 2022

Adam JonesGood morning, everyone.

I applied to and began the Master of Public Policy program at Heller with a pretty clear set of expectations. Without being able to see into the future, I was confident in predicting what I would get out of the degree. I knew I would brush up on some history, probably learn how Social Security works, do some sort of cost-benefit analysis, and improve my writing skills. It might not have been a sexy degree like an MFA in creative thinking or a Harvard Extension School certificate in content creation, but I knew what it would do for me as an intellectual and a professional, and I was excited.

After four semesters of coursework and a summer internship, I can say that many of those early expectations were met. I learned different approaches to policy analysis. I’ve been able to do deep, meaningful research on areas of interest, and I’ve gained technical skills that will, undoubtedly, serve me well. I should be of at least some use to people out there in the world with what I’ve gained. Still, what I expected to find when I got here is not all that I’m leaving with. Frankly, I don’t think that they’re the most important things that I’m leaving with, either. Because what’s been sticking with me as I’ve closed out my time here are the folks that I’ll be carrying with me on my way out. 

What I couldn’t predict as I mapped this program out in my head were the ways in which I would be profoundly affected by my peers. Where at one point I had thought of graduate school as an individual endeavor, I now can’t help but think of all the times that this student community has come together to bring out the best in one another. I consider the thoughtful, organized pursuit of racial equity on an institutional level. The selfless academic collaboration that has stood in stark contrast to the toxic competition that academia so often breeds. And the persistent, dogged advocacy meant to ensure that this program is left in a better position than it was found. At each step in our collective journey, people in this space have proven that, if there is an idea worth manifesting, it is almost always done better in a group than in solitude. 

As we each leave here today to continue lives that are dedicated to improving the world, I call on us to remember and rely upon the strength of the collective. Of community. And of each other. For all the wealth and capital that goes into constructing an institution like Heller, the true value of this place as I’ve experienced it has been the people who have shared even just small pieces of themselves with those around them. Not only have these exchanges brought me personal joy, but they have created meaningful changes in the lives of people who are leaving, as well as those who have not yet arrived. 

For most of us, the next few weeks and months will be spent adjusting to and trying to make sense of new workplaces, new cities, new countries. In opportunities that may be as terrifying as they are exciting. And as we enter these new spaces – within institutions that feel immovable or adjacent to conflicts that are decades in the making – I hope that we remember the power that we held in this space. The immense power that we hold in our ability to relate to each other and to make each other feel seen. Because where even a few likeminded, passionate individuals are gathered, a world of change can be made. Thank you.