Four months ago, in this very room, I welcomed you to Yale and inducted you into the World Fellows program.
And into this liminal space, this physical, emotional, psychological and metaphorical in-between place, between your former life – and your future one.
Where time stops – yet whizzes by in a flash.
For some, there was anxiety, feelings of discomfort with so much unstructured time, so much uncertainty, struggling to let go of the old as you search for the new.
Khalil Gibran wrote:
It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
Such anxiety is natural.
But as the weeks went by, you all came to give yourself permission to relax, to be less busy.
To go to the balcony, to walk in the woods, to appreciate the beauty of Yale.
To evolve, to grow, to transform.
To embrace the opportunity to be more present, to invest in relationships, to build friendships, to smile more.
To rediscover and unleash your inner creativity.
To think more about a life worth living, building the good society, nurturing family and community.
To reimagine individually – and as a cohort – how the world might be, and your own role in it. To transition from one phase of life to another.
It has been a privilege in seminars and salons to hear you talk about:
- campaigning for election in the Philippines in a blizzard of misinformation and toxic discourse– yet itching to jump back into the fray and elevate the discourse
- negotiating with Colombian rebel groups – and documenting the lessons so that others may benefit
- founding the largest renewables company in Eastern Europe – and charting a path to influence EU energy policy
- promoting intra-African trade – and establishing a fund for energy access
- recovering from life changing injuries at war to lead expeditions to the Poles – and to bring warring partners together on walks
- brokering humanitarian relief in war zones – and thinking more systemically about future wars, and future peace
- raising the status of women in Sierra Leone – and running for President in 2028
- promoting civil society in Kyrgyzstan – and creating innovation ecosystems in central Asia
- Mediating to prevent conflicts around elections in West Africa — and thinking about how to mediate growing conflicts around climate change
- Imagining a defiantly optimistic future for man and machine – and committing to use tech to protect and promote democracy
- protecting civilians in conflict – and setting up a new humanitarian organization funded by Africans for Africans
- serving as economic advisor to the Prime Minister of Yemen – and launching a youth movement, to bring change from the bottom up as well
- Investing in scalable social enterprises in India — and taking big risks on climate innovations
- Rising as a minority in Israel’s civil service – and launching into politics
- Working in philanthropy to set up initiatives to include refugees in decision-making processes— and becoming an expert and trusted advisor on global refugee policy
- Engaging new domestic Chinese stakeholders in climate action — and leveraging climate change as an arena for cooperation and dialogue between China and the US
You are amazing people.
And at a time when wars are raging, when democracies are backsliding, when we face a climate emergency, you inspire us all with your commitment and dedication to building a better world, your expertise on how to do it, and your courage to lead.
In a polarized world, when campus and country was torn apart by events in the Middle East…. you are people who conquer poles, who build bridges, who strive as one community….
I’ve observed you in the classroom, sharing your knowledge with Grand Strategy students, meeting them for lunches, and helping them make sense of the world – and how the global south can navigate an era of Great Power Competition. For the first time in the history of the course, the students presented a strategy on Small Island Nations. I know I’m biased, but Module 2 students did give the best final presentation!
Thank you for making so much time for our students, for mentoring them, for inspiring them. You are amazing role models.
You’ve given talks across campus, in colleges and in professional schools. And you’ve gone out beyond Yale to speak at public schools in New Haven.
Thank you for sharing your amazing network with us, bringing to campus President Duque of Colombia, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, VP Leni Robredo of the Philippines, FM Kabba of Sierra Leone.
Allow me to thank all those who supported you during your time here and have been part of your journey.
To the liaisons, thank you for organizing events for the World Fellows in your colleges, across campus, and for introducing them to university life.
To my team: Tim, Holly, Anne, Kelly, Yuval – David, Daryn, William, Peter…thank you for all your hard work and dedication.
To the Jackson School, thank you for all your support.
To the Starr Foundation, thank you for your belief in the value of the program.
2023 World Fellows,
Your time at Yale has come to its end.
Go forth, because
“there is no other way.
The river can not go back.”
Go forth, re-vitalized, to improve our world, to become the ocean.
Go forth, sustained by new friendships and the global network of World Fellows.
Go forth with your heads held high, a couple of inches taller than when you arrived….
More confident in the knowledge of your purpose in the world
Happier with the love of your fellow Fellows
And with our love
World Fellows for life.