Graduate Address by Luke Irwin and Claire O'Hanlon

Luke Irwin (cohort '16) and Claire O'Hanlon ('13) coauthored and copresented the 2022 Commencement Graduate Address. In the transcript below, the text that Luke read is indicated in purple, and Claire's is in italics.

'Tis the day of commencement and all through the land
Like salmon the fellows have come back to RAND
To receive our degrees in a much-delayed rite
And listen to various platitudes trite.
But doesn’t it feel like just moments ago
We decided more school is what we need to grow?

It’s hard to remember just where we have been;
The battle at first was to simply get in!
Rec letters and transcripts and the GRE,
In what areas do you think you can do OJT?
The deadline approaching, three essays to write:
What policy problems keep you up at night?

But we did it, accepted! And now to decide,
Would we sign up for poverty by the seaside?
A weekend of previews, though somewhat misleading,
Led you to conclude, Pardee RAND’s what I’m needing!

You packed up, quit your job, left a life that was cool
While your boss tried to Google “Ayn Rand Party School?”
But the honeymoon period was surprisingly short
With classes and coverage and learning to pile-sort.
Learning the lingo, “CoCom”, “PTN” —
Wait, those terms are dated.
What? Since when?

But with emails and meetings and work trips and calls,
Clearly you did just enough to pass quals

Then year two, like the first one, with more OJT.
Which dissertation group will you pick of the three?

Then in the third year, you’ve figured it out—
Except what you’re gonna be writing about.
But you find a committee, and the work will commence,
Once you successfully pass your proposal defense.

But then it’s “year N” and it’s time for despair!
(Except for the Air Force. They’ve gone who knows where.)
Inside your head there are so many voices
Demanding that you question all your life choices,
Struggling more than you’d like to admit,
Resisting the urge to give up and quit.

You’re nearing the end, your chair says it’s time.
The sprint to the end feels more like a climb,
But keep thoughts that you are an imposter at bay:
A dissertation is what three people say.
By the time your defense date arrives you’re a wreck—
Years of work distilled into a PowerPoint deck.

The defense is completed, now it’s time to have fun!
But though you’ve defended, you’re not actually done.
Edits and changes, with returns diminishing,
The registrar wondering,
“So when are you finishing?”
But once papers are signed, there’s no reason to fret.
(Except finding a job, and paying your debt.)

Though our paths are unique and our topics widespread,
We each made it back to the sand we once tread.
Sure, things are different. A reimagined school!
But the grass is much greener in the end, as a rule.
Whether done pre-pandemic, or finished in recent weeks
We’ve earned the title “doctor” — no more just mere geeks!

None of us got where we are on our own:
Mentors and teachers — our supports are well known.
The sacrifices of our families and friends
Provided the means that enabled these ends.

Together we learned resilience and strength
Working together, we can go any length.
The world needs our help, right now more than ever.
The questions are constantly changing, however.
Fentanyl, blockchain, charges of sedition
Ukrainian sovereignty, viral transmission,
Our changing climate and the right to bear arms,
Nuclear war or factory farms...

Whether immigrants, water, surveillance, or cancer,
No matter the question, We can Be the Answer!