Harvard names Lawrence S. Bacow as 29th president

I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, a working-class town with at the time

three General Motors plans. My parents were both immigrants, they're actually

both refugees. My mother came here on the second Liberty ship that brought

refugees from Europe after the war. She was a survivor of Auschwitz.

She was the... sadly, the only member of her family and actually the only Jew from

her town who survived the war. My father was born in Minsk and was brought here

by his family as a child to escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

I've often said that this is a remarkable country for many, many reasons.

Where else in the world can you go, literally in one generation from off the

boat with nothing, to enjoy the kind of life and opportunity that I've enjoyed

that my parents and my sister also enjoyed? And I think higher education was

at the root of that. Part of what motivates me is to ensure that others

have the same kind of opportunities that I've enjoyed.

Harvard is a special place, but it's also a special place to me. It's where I

figured out that I was the teacher at heart, it's where I figured out that I

wanted to be a scholar and devote my life to scholarship, it's where I

developed my lifelong passion for higher education.

These are interesting and challenging times for higher education, and part of

what attracts me to this opportunity is the chance to speak not just on behalf

of Harvard, but on behalf of all that colleges and universities stand for. This

is the first time I think in our history where people have seriously challenged

the value of colleges and universities. Both they've asked whether or not it's a

worthwhile investment on behalf of students and their families, but also

people are raising questions about whether or not colleges and universities

are actually good for society. Clearly I believe that they are, I

wouldn't be here if I didn't. We scour the world to try and admit the very best

students, we create remarkable opportunities for young people, we do

research which literally changes the world, but also I think it enables the

American dream. It gives people opportunity, to do things that are almost

unimaginable, absent it. That's why our colleges and universities are so

important, and this particular place is so important. One of the most important

people in my life was my fourth and fifth grade teacher. Her name was Shirley

Chandler, and I learned a tremendous amount from her, not the least of which

was she taught me the importance of listening to others. I think most of us

have been touched by great teachers in our lives, and we encounter them at all

levels. Great faculty inspire their students,

they take a lifelong interest in their students, they mentor their students, and

continue to try and help nudge them along. That's what we do at a place like

this. And I think if we're lucky we never stop learning, and we never stop

encountering great teachers. I would say there were a few things that I'm really

proud about during my tenure at Tufts. Probably the most important achievement

was dramatically increasing access by raising a lot of money for financial aid.

In improving access we greatly enhanced the diversity of the student body. I

think diversity is important for a lot of reasons, but the most important is

that it's a pathway to excellence. We would never attract the very best if we

excluded people because of their background or their race of their

ethnicity, or any other criteria. We need to both reflect the world that we

live in, but also to shape that world. Ultimately, we learn from our differences.

Sometimes I worry that in today's world we think of higher education only in

terms of what it does for the individual. With this extraordinary education also

comes responsibility, and it's responsibility to make a difference in

the world. Now different people are going to do that differently and that's fine,

but I want to make sure that all of our graduates, no matter what they do,

understand they have a responsibility to engage. What we can't afford is to have

good people not get involved, because if that happens, then we we have no standing

to complain about outcomes. We are responsible for making the world a better place.