Speaking at Harvard, Garland issues appeal for public service following shooting
Attorney General Merrick Garland told Harvard graduates on Sunday their generation was asked to show “a kind of impossible resilience” after yet another mass shooting at another school.
“As we come together today to celebrate this important milestone in your life, we also hold on to an enormous amount of grief over yet another mass shooting at another school in our country,” he said. he declares. “An unspeakable act of violence has devastated families and the entire community of Uvalde, Texas. I know I speak for all of us here as our hearts are broken.”
As the United States mourns the victims of its latest mass shooting, 19 elementary students and two teachers shot dead in Texas, Garland was the main speaker at Harvard’s commencement ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021. Their ceremonies in person have been postponed during the pandemic.
Garland said that before the back-to-back mass shootings in Uvalde and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and the attack on Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Laguna Woods, California, he decided to make his speech on public service. He said he still wanted to do it because “these tragedies only underscore how urgent the call to public service for your generation really is.”
Garland was emotional as he recounted how his grandmother was one of five children born in what is now Belarus and how four of the siblings tried to come to the United States. Three did. The fourth was turned away and the fifth didn’t try.
“The two who remained died in the Holocaust,” he said. “So for me, public service is a way to pay off the debt that my family owes this country for our very lives. I know you’ve all worked really hard to get here. Me too. And for different reasons, the fact it is good luck that we are all here today, so I hope you will all make a promise similar to the one I made to dedicate a part of your life to public service.
Garland is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and later served on the Harvard Board of Overseers. Harvard held its first in-person commencement exercises since 2019 for the Class of 2022 on Thursday, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivering the keynote address.
Garland said graduates who dedicate a portion of their lives to service will be able to “re-glue the fabric of our civil society.”
“We must persuade our neighbors and our communities to reject the idea that violence or threats of violence are acceptable. We must work to dispel the hatred that fuels such violence,” he said. “Democracy cannot survive if its citizens abandon the rule of law in favor of violence or the threat of violence. We are all in this together. We must protect each other.”