Tufts UEP Commencement Speeches 2023: Eli Tavares, MA/MS

Eli Tavares gave a speech representing MA and MS UEP students at the 2023 UEP commencement. This post is the first in a series of four UEP’s 2023 commencement speeches. Next will be Jenny Lau, representing MPP graduates, Chelsea Spaman representing MS Sustainability students, and Eugenia Gibbins, the alumna keynote. 

Introduction by Penn Loh:

Last but certainly not least is Eli Tavares, representing the largest degree program at UEP, which now has two flavors. MA in UEPP and MS in EPP. Eli came to UEP having worked for several years doing environmental and energy research with the Applied Economics Clinic. I could go on and on about the technical skills that Eli’s continued to build at UEP. However, like all UEPers, it is his soft skills that stand out. He served as a co-coordinator for the student group People of Planning, which created space and resources for students who want to take an anti-racist lens to planning. His leadership potential was also recognized when he was chosen for a summer fellowship in 2022 with the Environmental Fellows Program, which seeks to diversify the environmental sector. According to one of the students nominating him for speaker today, he has been a “grounding presence in Brown House and shows genuine care for his classmates.”

Begin Eli’s speech:

“To the excellent staff, proud parents and friends, and the UEP class of 2023, I am incredibly honored to speak before you as we remember where we came from, celebrate what we accomplished, and anticipate what needs to be done. But for now, I ask you to join me in taking a well-deserved long, deep breath.

Take it all in, let your shoulders drop, and ground yourself in this moment. Because the world is waiting for us. The world is waiting for bright, driven individuals to help bring the world to a better place.

When I graduated from Boston University in 2018, our commencement speaker, the late congressman John Lewis – who marched with Martin Luther King – implored us to “find a way to get in the way”. He called it “getting into good trouble, necessary trouble”.

What makes me so confident in our cohort is that we have never been afraid to get into good trouble. In fact, I’m confident UEP can’t wait to get us out of here. We challenged almost every UEP system or class that could be challenged and pissed a lot of people off along the way. But the mindset to challenge systems is rare, and extremely powerful. That fearlessness is the mark of true leadership, and the impetus of change.

With that, I ask you to consider the word: assiduity. Assiduity refers to the constant and close attention to a process. Environmentalism does not exist without assiduity. We could just as easily ignore the pressures facing our world as many of our coinhabitants do.

The quality we bring is that we refuse to accept systems as they are. We look closely at the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we use, and envision ways to make them work not only for us, but for future generations.

Sometimes I think about the daunting task ahead of us and worry we won’t achieve what’s needed. Then I think about the bright, persnickety, and fearless graduates that will fight the good fight alongside me, here before me, and those fears completely go away.

So, to all of you, I say remain assiduous, get in good trouble, and if you get lost in the fight, remember that we are all here, we are all pushing, and it will all work out. Thank you.