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On Friday June 12, 2015, the Fielding School celebrated 240 graduating public health students at the FSPH Commencement Ceremony in Royce Hall. Before hundreds of family members, friends and faculty members, degrees were conferred on 42 doctoral and 198 Master's students during a festive evening led by Fielding School Dean Jody Heymann.
As these graduates leave FSPH and become public health professionals, 2015 FSPH Commencement speaker Professor Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration and Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, reminded them that a career in public health is a life of being a "change agent." This, he said, requires not only courage and patience, but a willingness to engage in political discourse on behalf of those who may lack the power or voice to stand up for themselves.
In his address, Reich – who in his own career has championed workers’ rights and administered policies like the Family and Medical Leave Act – spoke on how the structure of the economy is inevitably interwined with public health, that wealth and income inequality can ultimately leave poorer families in poorer health, both in the United States or around the world. And he encouraged graduates to be champions in their chosen fields.
"To be a change agent, you've got to look power in the eye. To be a change agent, you've got to mobilize and organize and energize people out of powerlessness and humiliation and feelings of inefficacy. To be a change agent, you've got to put yourself on the line," Reich concluded. "I'm sure I can say... that I represent the views of most, if not all of your faculty, when I say we do what we do because we believe in you. We believe that you will make a difference."