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Fareed Zakaria to Harvard graduates: help shape world amid 'astonishing age of progress'

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  May 24, 2012 06:13 PM

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(David L. Ryan/Globe staff)

Fareed Zakaria to Harvard graduates: "When we come together, when we put aside petty difference, when we cooperate, the results are astounding."

Acclaimed journalist and author Fareed Zakaria told graduating Harvard University students on Thursday that the world is in the midst of an “astonishing age of progress” that they can help shape.

"When we come together, when we put aside petty difference, when we cooperate, the results are astounding," Zakaria, host of CNN’s international affairs program, "Fareed Zakaria GPS," and editor at large of Time magazine, told students, alumni, and families at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, which serves as the afternoon program of the school's commencement ceremonies.

“When we look at the problems we face--economic crises, terrorism, climate change, resource scarcity--keep in mind that these are real problems, but the human reaction and response to them will be real,” said Zakaria, who has a doctorate from Harvard and who received an honorary degree during this year’s commencement--the school’s 361st.

Harvard also awarded honorary degrees to composer John Adams; philosophy professor K. Anthony Appiah; critic Gillian Beer; physicist Walter Kohn; Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and atmospheric scientist Mario Molina.

The jovial proceedings celebrating the school’s alumni--including the 7,500 who just graduated--included the singing of school songs, performances by the university’s marching band, and a procession of Harvard and Radcliffe alumni from as far back as the class of 1929 -- represented by 103-year-old George Barner of Kennebunk, Maine.

As the ceremony began, the graduates--some still in full regalia--wandered through Harvard Yard’s Tercentenary Theatre taking photographs with proud family members and waving to friends before taking their seats.

Zakaria, a native of India who has been hailed for his foreign policy expertise, outlined the advances in medicine, technology, and education that have reduced poverty levels, increased life expectancy, and improved the living condition of people around the world--improvements that he said will help this country to continue to grow.

“Well a world of peace and broader prosperity--the rise of the rest--is going to be particularly good for the United States because let me remind you that this is the country with the largest and most dynamic economy in the world,” Zakaria said, praising the United States for its industries and diversity.

While Zakaria offered a positive outlook of the world’s future, he encouraged the graduates to be proactive and avoid complacency.

“Human action and human achievement have managed to take on and best terrible problems,” Zakaria told the graduates.

He confidence in the world extended to the recent graduates. He urged them to make a difference by following the principles such as hard work, courage, loyalty, and faith that society has always honored.

“Trust in your instincts and you will build a great life, you will build a good life, and you will change the world,” he said.

Harvard President Drew Faust, also looked to the fast-changing future with a confident outlook, telling the graduates that the the institution will continue to adapt and meet challenges to achieve its goal of educating.

“Harvard has survived and thrived by considering over and over again how its timeless and unwavering dedication to knowledge and truth must be adapted to the demands of each new age,” Faust said.

“With the strength of our past, we welcome these unknowns and the opportunities they offer as we re-imagine Harvard for the next 375 years,” she said.

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