MPP Commencement Speaker: Lisa Thorn, MPP’23

May 21, 2023

Lisa Thorn wearing a cap and gownCongratulations! And thank you for all your energy and time that you have generously provided to me and to each other. It wasn’t easy to survive whatever path we individually walked to miraculously converge here at Heller. It wasn’t easy to commit years of our lives to learning and navigating academia, and confronting an entire planet’s worth of systemic injustices will surely not be without seemingly insurmountable challenges. But wait! There is good news! Collectively — in this room, we have everything it takes to change the world, and that is truly an awesome thing to see.

Three things this community has become, in no particular order:

We are curious, and ask probing questions which challenge power and reveal the truth. It is through questioning our institutions, our governments, and even ourselves that we transform our identities as marginalized communities to people of power.

We are visionary — endlessly creative in the good we see in our future. As transgender identities become political weapons and libraries a site of oppression, we must alter centuries of hate through imagining entirely new places. Places where everyone can experience belonging, happiness, and success — however individually defined.

We are empowered. Be it in our research, in our environment, in our identities — we are the ones who determine what role we play in society. We may be challenging centuries of substance use disorder, exploitation of our lands and labor, or building the physical infrastructure by which we engage in democracy. We have the power and the knowledge to do these amazing things.

Our courses cemented a foundation from which we built a shared vocabulary to tackle concepts of wealth inequality, imperfect markets, and laissez-faire American liberalism. But our knowledge is the result of our collective compassion. You all have taught me about disability justice, gender-based violence, worker rights, civic infrastructure, and taxes. It is because of all of you that I know that my area of research is your area of research and that the liberation for one is truly wrapped up in the liberation of us all.

Thank you to the amazing faculty who work everyday to change our lives for the better and to the Heller students who have inspired me to do more than I thought I could. Congratulations, everyone!