By Laura Ferguson for Tufts Now
Commencement addresses often focus on the idea of a bright future, but Congressman Jim McGovern’s speech at the Friedman School’s ceremony on May 19 was a little different.
“One in eight Americans are food insecure or hungry. One in six kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” McGovern told the graduating students at Friedman’s commencement ceremony in Cohen Auditorium, who received eight doctorates; seventy-six Master of Science degrees; eight Master of Science/Combined Dietetic Internship degrees; two Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance degrees; and fourteen Master of Nutrition Science and Policy degrees. “Forty percent of the food in this country spoils and is wasted, but millions of families don’t have access to sustainably sourced, healthy, nutritious food. Anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs are under attack, mischaracterized and underfunded.”
“When you speak about these topics, people are going to listen to you. Your country needs your knowledge and experience, not just to make change, but to do good,” McGovern said.
Now more than ever, it’s important for Friedman graduates to step up and become advocates, educators, and activists, building a movement to end hunger in America and “make food a fundamental human right for every person,” McGovern said. “When you speak about these topics, people are going to listen to you. Your country needs your knowledge and experience, not just to make change, but to do good,” McGovern said. “You have been given the incredible gift of an education from the Friedman School. Now is the time for you to use that to make this a better world.”
Student speaker Nayla Bezares, who earned her M.S. in Agriculture, Food and Environment, also exhorted her fellow graduates to tackle the challenge “to mitigate economic and social disparities to make wholesome food the norm for all people . . . while preserving the beauty of cultural identity, which is inherent to the nourishing nature of food in our lives.”
As people who understand ecological models, Friedman graduates must accept their responsibility as custodians of their environment, Bezares said. “How do we handle the uncertainty that surrounds us? No other light, no other guide than the one burning in our hearts,” Bezares said. “I hope you can find the fire burning within you. I hope it never goes out.”
Bezares also told classmates, “The best is ahead of you.” It was a sentiment shared by Dean Dariush Mozaffarian, who acknowledged the “alarming, truly terrifying” statistics about the number of U.S. children likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and the number of federal dollars spent treating conditions that could have been prevented through a better diet.
"How do we handle the uncertainty that surrounds us? No other light, no other guide than the one burning in our hearts,” Bezares said. “I hope you can find the fire burning within you. I hope it never goes out.”
But he said ultimately he is optimistic. “You are graduating at an incredible time right now on the planet. I believe the first half of the twenty-first century will be remembered as the time homo sapiens fixed the food system,” Mozaffarian told students. “On behalf of the faculty, staff, and alumni of Friedman, congratulations, and I look forward to working together toward our shared goals of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system.”