With the cloud of the Marathon bombings still hanging over Boston, Northeastern University began the city’s commencement season Friday to recognize its students’ achievements and the work of region’s first responders.
More than 20,000 students, family members, friends, faculty, and staff gathered in TD Garden Friday morning to cheer and celebrate the graduating class. But the joyous day, which played out amid heightened security, was not without solemn reflection on recent events.
“While we have much to celebrate we are joined in the shadow of tragedy," Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said in his opening remarks. “We are feeling a conflicting mix of emotions: joy and pain, triumph and loss. Fortunately, we also draw strength from one another.”
Aoun recognized the first responders, law enforcement officials, and ordinary citizens who helped at the finish line after the bombings, including Northeastern students in the Bouve College of Health Sciences originally there to offer first aid and routine assistance to marathon runners.
"But when disaster struck there was nothing routine about their response. They immediately put their education to use and when confronted with the worst they brought out their best," he said, asking the students and advisors to stand for a round of applause.
Northeastern also gave every person in attendance a blue and yellow bracelet with ‘Boston Strong’ and ‘#NU2013’ written on it.
To a long, roaring applause and standing ovation, first responders came onto the stage with Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who accepted an honorary doctorate in public service on behalf of the first responders and law enforcement officials who sprung into action to help others in the wake of the bombings.
Governor Deval Patrick, presenting the honorary degree, said “During the traumatic attack on our city and in the hours and days that followed, you ran toward danger to care for the injured, comfort the bereaved, and keep our citizens safe from further harm."
Nikesh Arora, senior vice president and chief business officer at Google; Jack D. Bryant, president of engineering firm Bryant Associates and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II; and Barbara Lynch, CEO of Barbara Lynch Gruppo were also awarded honorary degrees.
In his commencement address World Bank president Jim Yong Kim encouraged students to use the tools and skills they have developed to successfully face a future that was uncertain, but full of possibilities.
"My challenge to you is this: set bold goals, deliberately and consciously build your willpower, and use your time well,” he said.
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