Category: Uncategorized

Ardent for Some Desperate Glory – Remembering the First World War: A Major Exhibition of World War I Posters and Manuscripts

September 24th, 2014 in 2014, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Ardent for Some Desperate Glory –
Remembering the First World War
A Major Exhibition of World War I Posters and Manuscripts

Student Enrichment Series

When: Sunday, September 28, 2014 – 3:00 – 5:00 PM

Where: Howard Gotlieb Memorial Gallery, 771 Commonwealth Avenue, First Floor

Admission: Free & Open to the Public

Interested in American history, World War One or war propaganda? Join Boston University’s Gotlieb Center for the annual Howard Gotlieb Lecture and opening of a new major exhibition: Ardent for Some Desperate Glory – Remembering the First World War on September 28 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The event will feature a reception and opening remarks by International Relations Professor Erik Goldstein. The exhibition will include a wide array of rare posters from World War One that demonstrate many issues of the time, as well as manuscript material depicting the major upheaval in the world during the Great War. Both the hanging posters and the manuscript material depict the fortitude, sacrifice and ingenuity of those who fought.

Erik Goldstein’s research interests include diplomacy, formulation of national diplomatic strategies, the origins and resolution of armed conflict, and negotiation. He also served as BU’s International Relations Department chair for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010.

For more information on the event, visit the website.

Researchers Identify Potential Biomarker for AD

July 28th, 2014 in 2014, Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine, Uncategorized 0 comments


Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480,

(Boston)– Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) report variants in a new gene, PLXNA4, which may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The discovery of this novel genetic association may lead to new drug treatment options that target PLXNA4 specifically. These findings appear in the Annals of Neurology.

AD is the most frequent age-related dementia affecting 5.4 million Americans including 13 percent of people age 65 and older, and more than 40 percent of people age 85 and older. Genetic factors account for much of the risk for developing AD with heritability estimates between 60 percent and 80 percent. However much of the genetic basis for the disease is unexplained. Less than 50 percent of the genetic contribution to AD is supported by known common genetic variations.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, the researchers obtained strong evidence of an association with several single nucleotide polymorphism in PLXNA4, a gene which had not been previously linked to AD. They then confirmed this finding in a larger dataset from the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium and other datasets. Next, they performed a series of experiments in models that pinpointed the mechanism by which this gene affects AD risk. “Importantly, this is one of few single studies which go from gene finding to mechanism,” explained corresponding author Lindsay Farrer, PhD, Chief of Biomedical Genetics and professor of medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, epidemiology and biostatistics at BUSM.

According to the researchers a form of the protein encoded by this gene promotes formation of neurofibrillary tangles consisting of decomposed tau protein, one of the two pathological hallmarks of the disease. “We showed that PLXNA4 affects the processing of tau as it relates to neurofibrillary tangles, the primary marker of AD.  Most drugs that have been developed or that are in development for treating AD are intended to reduce the toxic form of beta-amyloid, a sticky substance that accumulates in the brain of persons with AD, and none have been very effective. Only a few drugs have targeted the tau pathway,” added Farrer.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (R01-AG025259, P30-AG13846, R01-AG0001, U24-AG021886, U24-AG26395, R01-AG041797 and P50-AG005138), the Alzheimer Association, the Korean Health Technology R&D Project, Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (#A110742), and the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research (ECIBR) ARC on “Protein Trafficking and Neurodegenerative Disease” at Boston University.

Boston University Awards Full-Tuition Medeiros Scholarships to 12 Archdiocesan High School Graduates

June 4th, 2014 in 2014, News Releases, Robert Brown, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact: Kevin Griffin, 617/353-2240,

(Boston) — Boston University (BU) awarded twelve students among the graduating seniors of the parochial high schools in the Archdiocese of Boston four-year, full-tuition scholarships through the Cardinal Medeiros Scholarship Program at a May 20 ceremony at BU’s George Sherman Union.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and University President Robert Brown presented the students with their scholarships, cumulatively valued at over $2.2 million. Medeiros Scholars are chosen for their academic achievements, demonstrated leadership skills and contributions to their schools and communities. The scholars were selected by a two-person committee composed of representatives from BU Admissions and the Archdiocese of Boston.

By the time these students graduate, the University will have enrolled a total of 396 scholars, representing a contribution of over $44 million from Boston University to the greater Boston area and the students of the Archdiocese.

The Medeiros Scholars are:*

  • Carli F. DiMeo, St. Mary’s Jr-Sr High School
  • Grace M. Ferri, Austin Preparatory School
  • Eric D. Loehle, Bishop Fenwick High School
  • Richard J. McAllister, Archbishop Williams High School
  • Mary K. McCarthy, Academy of Notre Dame
  • Nicholas T. Neville, Archbishop Williams High School
  • Collette A. O’Connor, Fontbonne Academy
  • Sheila M. Orechia, Ursuline Academy
  • Rebekah Paxton, Academy of Notre Dame
  • David G. Souza, Saint John’s Preparatory School
  • Michael A. Tomaino, Catholic Memorial High School
  • Kimberly M. Tran, Pope John XXIII Central High School

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.  BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission.  In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

*Group image available upon request

BUSM/BMC Study Shows Decrease in Sepsis Mortality Rates

November 15th, 2013 in 2013, Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine, Uncategorized 0 comments


Contact: Jenny Eriksen Leary, 617-638-6841,

(Boston) – A recent study from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) shows a significant decrease in severe sepsis mortality rates over the past 20 years. Looking at data from patients with severe sepsis enrolled in clinical trials, researchers found that in-hospital mortality rates decreased from 47 percent between 1991 and 1995 to 29 percent between 2006 and 2009, a time period when no new pharmacological treatments were developed for severe sepsis. The results suggest that substantial improvements in patient outcomes can be accomplished by improving processes of care and working with existing treatments in a novel way.


The study, which is published online in Critical Care Medicine, was led by senior author Allan J. Walkey, MD, MSc, assistant professor of medicine, BUSM, and attending physician, pulmonary, critical care and allergy medicine, BMC.


Severe sepsis, which affects approximately one million Americans each year, occurs when a local infection causes other organs in the body to fail. For example, a patient with severe sepsis could have an infection that starts as pneumonia, but a counterproductive immune response results in damage to distant organs, such as new onset kidney failure, altered mental status and/or dangerously low blood pressure (shock).  It can be imminently life threatening – approximately one out of three patients die from severe sepsis during their hospitalization.


Because prior studies suggesting a decrease in severe sepsis mortality rates used only billing codes from administrative data, it was thought that billing code changes may be responsible for the mortality decline. To avoid administrative data issues and determine trends in patients prospectively identified as having severe sepsis, this study looked at data from patients with severe sepsis enrolled in 36 multicenter clinical trials from 1991-2009.


The results showed that despite no change over time in the severity of illness of the patients with severe sepsis enrolled in the clinical trials, mortality rates declined significantly over 20 years, and the decline occurred without the development of new pharmacological therapies targeted to treat severe sepsis.


Previous studies have suggested that having more critical care physicians providing care, earlier initiation of antibiotics, more targeted delivery of intravenous fluids and more gentle mechanical ventilation may improve outcomes of patients with severe sepsis. However, whether findings from these past studies were implemented into routine practice and were associated with improved severe sepsis patient outcomes in the real world was previously unclear.

“Even without new drugs or technologies to treat severe sepsis, our study suggests that improving the ways in which we recognize and deliver care to patients with severe sepsis could decrease mortality rates by a magnitude similar to new effective drug,” said Walkey.

Additional studies are needed to determine what specific changes in care have had the most impact on decreasing the mortality rates of patients with severe sepsis.


This study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under grant award number K01HL116768.

New Study Evaluates the Risk of Birth Defects Among Women Who Take Antihistamines in Pregnancy

September 18th, 2013 in 2013, Health & Medicine, News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480,

(Boston) — Antihistamines are a group of medications that are used to treat various conditions, including allergies and nausea and vomiting.  Some antihistamines require a prescription, but most are available over-the-counter (OTC), and both prescription and OTC antihistamines are often used by women during pregnancy. Until recently, little information was available to women and their health care providers on the possible risks and relative safety of these medications in pregnancy, particularly when it came to specific birth defects.

A new study from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, based on interviews with more than 20,000 new mothers, now provides important information for many of these medicines. The researchers considered antihistamines that had been suggested in earlier studies to increase risks of certain defects, and they also considered other possible risks that might not have been identified in the past. Where there was sufficient information in the study data, the authors found no evidence to support suggestions of risk that had been found in earlier studies. In considering possible risks that had not been identified by others, the investigators found very few suggestions that any given medicine might be linked to an increase risk of a specific birth defect, and though these few deserve further research attention, these findings may have been due to chance. The study currently appears in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Dr. Allen Mitchell, the study’s director, noted that “we were fortunate that our study was able to consider commonly-used antihistamines that were available OTC as well as those available only with a prescription. While our findings provide reassurance about the relative safety of many of these medications in relation to a number of common birth defects, more information is needed.  As is the case for all types of medications, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should consult with their health care provider before taking any medicines, whether they are prescribed or OTC.”



Boston University Launches First-Ever Comprehensive Fundraising Campaign

September 21st, 2012 in News Releases, Uncategorized, University Affairs 0 comments

CONTACT: Tom Testa, 617-353-7628,

(Boston) — Boston University today formally launched the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in its 173-year history with a $1 billion goal — believed the largest for any school’s first-time effort — aimed at financing an array of new and enhanced mission goals envisioned for future stability and growth, according to President Robert A. Brown.

“It has become clear that our alumni and other friends are prepared to support this ambitious effort, so we are moving forward,” said Brown, who laid the groundwork for the campaign in 2005 when he became president and initiated work on a strategic plan that identified BU’s strengths and set priorities for its future that would necessitate changes in funding strategy. “Nothing will be more important for the future of the University than our success.”

The strategic plan — “Choosing to be Great” — identified priorities to enrich and nurture what were seen as the BU’s strengths, including a renowned faculty, increasingly gifted student body, healthy finances, and its international students and programs. The new comprehensive campaign seeks to bankroll those goals, Brown said, because “a vision without a budget is a hallucination.”

Specifically, the overall objective for the campaign is to allocate:

– $150 million for students to ensure BU remains accessible to highly qualified candidates;
– $200 million to help recruit and retain outstanding faculty, continue raising salaries to competitive levels, and increase the number of endowed professorships;
– $250 million to support research;
– $150 million to maintain and improve facilities;
– $150 million for special programs such as career services, libraries, and athletics;
– and $100 million for unrestricted and current-use gifts.

The campaign aims to expand the deans’ advisory boards at BU’s 16 schools and colleges and to double participation to 50,000 among alumni in the traditional Annual Fund. It also includes an unprecedented “Century Challenge” in which donations of $100,000 or more to an endowed undergraduate scholarship fund will have the annual payout matched from the financial aid budget for 100 years (up to a maximum of $100 million) – in effect doubling the impact of the donor’s named gift.

“Nobody’s ever done this,” said BU Senior VP for Development and Alumni Relations Scott Nichols of the Century Challenge concept. “I’ve been working in development forever, and I’ve never heard any institution figure this out – Bob Brown did.”

Nichols said BU trustees and overseers — recognizing that a major fundraising effort will ease the pressure to rely on tuition hikes – have collectively pledged $130 million of the $420 million already raised to kick-start the campaign during the two-year “quiet period” preceding the campaign’s formal launch. Gifts have included $25 million from trustee Rajen Kilachand, the largest in BU history, to endow the Arvid and Chandan Nadlal Kilachand Honors College, and $15 million from trustee Bahaa Hariri for the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. Gifts also made possible a new School of Medicine student residence, the expansion and renovation of the School of Law, and the New Balance athletic field now under construction.

“BU is now at a stage where it is breaking through,” said BU trustee and campaign chair Kenneth Feld. “The level of fame that has come to BU internationally is extraordinary. This is the absolute right time.”

About Boston University

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 32,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 16 colleges and schools and a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

# # #

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Boston University supports Davis Phinney Foundation in launching new resource to encourage living well with Parkinson’s Disease

July 23rd, 2012 in News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact: Stephanie Rotondo, (617) 353-7476,

(Boston) – Imagine you are one of the 60,000 new U.S. cases of Parkinson’s disease diagnosed each year. Where can you turn for accurate information? How can you learn what to expect and how to make things easier? Recognizing the need to provide a roadmap for people of all ages and at all stages of Parkinson’s, Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College has collaborated with The Davis Phinney Foundation and other renowned research institutions to launch the Foundation’s Every Victory Counts® manual’s second edition.  This manual uniquely gives people living with Parkinson’s – and their care partners and family members – the tools they need to take a proactive approach to self-care from diagnosis through advanced stages of the disease, including the latest information for the recently diagnosed, expanded content specifically for care partners and guidance for living with young-onset Parkinson’s. Boston University is among leading Parkinson’s research centers with contributors to the manual’s content.

The Every Victory Counts manual, which is endorsed by the American Academy of Physician Assistants, offers rich, interactive content including a chapter by Boston University’s Terry Ellis, PT, Ph.D., who also served as an advisor for the book. The manual includes worksheets, medication logs and questionnaires, all designed to help people monitor their health, create action plans and facilitate communication with healthcare professionals and care partners. The Every Victory Counts manual also addresses key topics, such as: talking to family and coworkers about the disease, exercise, nutrition, emotional health, deep brain stimulation, medical, surgical and behavioral therapies, intimacy, care partner issues and the importance of staying engaged.

“I’m honored to have worked with The Davis Phinney Foundation on developing a manual that offers individuals and their families a positive resource for living with Parkinson’s disease,” said contributor Terry Ellis, PT, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at the Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, and director of the National Resource Center for Rehabilitation established by Boston University and the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA).  “Our goal is to empower individuals with Parkinson’s to live life to the fullest and to take an active role in their own care. Using this manual, they can learn unique strategies and techniques to help manage all aspects of the disease.”

Some of the most powerful content in the manual is provided by more than 50 people with Parkinson’s who share compelling and inspiring insights on topics such as exercise, diet and intimacy. These heartfelt and often humorous testimonials offer wisdom on daily living with Parkinson’s and help create a sense of community for readers.

“The Davis Phinney Foundation is proud to provide this expanded resource to the Parkinson’s community,” said Polly Dawkins, executive director, the Davis Phinney Foundation. “Since launching the Every Victory Counts program more than two years ago, we have been encouraged and touched by the positive responses and valuable feedback, which shaped the direction and content for the second edition. We’ve added a primer for the recently diagnosed, extensive material for care partners and new worksheets and graphical references.”

Readers can complement the manual with online worksheets, the Living Well Challenge webinars (, expert Q&A videos ( and tools like the Top 10 Tips for Exercising with Parkinson’s (”

“Having competed successfully in the Olympics, Tour de France and countless other grueling professional cycling events, I know firsthand that attitude, focus and engagement can lead to victory in difficult, demanding circumstances,” said Davis Phinney, founder of the Davis Phinney Foundation and the winningest cyclist in US history. “For people like me who face the challenges of Parkinson’s each day, it’s critical we apply this same approach to our journey with Parkinson’s. With the expanded Every Victory Counts manual, we are empowering people to take control and motivating them to find and savor their moments of victory.”

The Every Victory Counts program manual is available for a donation of $27.00 and can be ordered at or by calling 1-855-PHINNEY. All manual proceeds will support Davis Phinney Foundation-funded Parkinson’s research and education programs.

Davis Phinney Foundation

The Davis Phinney Foundation was created in 2004 and is dedicated to helping people with Parkinson’s disease to live well today. The Foundation’s major initiatives include: the Every Victory Counts® manual, developed by movement disorder experts to provide practical ways to live well with Parkinson’s; The Victory Summit® symposia series, which brings leading experts into communities to share advances in science, care and to inspire those affected by the disease to celebrate their daily moments of victory; the Living Well Challenge™ educational webinar series; and, the funding of research focused on exercise, speech and other quality of life therapies. Visit the website:

Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College is an institution of higher education, which fosters critical and innovative thinking to best serve the health care needs of society through academics, research, and clinical practice. As reported by U.S. News and World Report, its graduate programs in Speech-Language Pathology and Physical Therapy are ranked in the top 8% of all programs while Occupational Therapy is #2 in the nation.  For more information and to learn about degree programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, language and hearing sciences, health science, athletic training, human physiology and nutrition, visit

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

Tagged , ,

Boston University awards over $3.7 million in full scholarships as matchless program passes $139 million mark

June 26th, 2012 in News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact:  Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626,

(Boston) — The Boston University Boston High School Scholarship Program, the nation’s oldest and largest scholarship program for urban public high school students, has presented 22 recent graduates of Boston public high schools a total of more than $3.7 million worth of four-year, full-tuition scholarships.  The program has awarded more than $139 million in scholarships to 1,797 students since being created in 1973 by then President John Silber.

Boston University President Robert Brown was joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino at ceremonies Wednesday night (6/20/12) honoring the 2012 class of new scholars who shared an “upward bound” weekend in New Hampshire before spending this week on the BU campus in an orientation program that includes lectures, labs, and receiving housing assignments.

Also recognized were 41 incoming freshman earning Boston High Community Service Awards, which offers any Boston public high school graduate who earns BU admission a guarantee to cover their full demonstrated financial need through grants, scholarships, or other forms of financial assistance without needing to take out loans.

Boston High Scholars are nominated by their school’s headmasters or guidance counselors and chosen by a three-member committee of representatives from the Mayor’s office, the university’s Office of Admissions, and the Boston public school system.

As part of Boston University’s nearly $3 billion annual economic impact in the region, the Boston High School Scholarship Program is a continuing investment in the educational future of the City of Boston and its young people.  BU also offers annual special scholarship programs for Boston City employees, Boston teachers, graduates of Bunker Hill College and Roxbury Community College, graduates of nearby Brookline and Chelsea high schools, graduates of local Catholic Archdiocesan schools, and children of Boston and Brookline firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 32,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States.  BU contains 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

Tagged ,

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Addresses BU Grads at University’s 139th Commencement Ceremony

May 20th, 2012 in News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact: Tom Testa, 617-353-7628,
Colin Riley, 617-353-2240,

(Boston) – Speaking to over 6,700 Boston University graduates and 20,000 guests at today’s 139th commencement at Nickerson Field, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, encouraged the class of 2012 to identify and connect as “they shape our times, define the human condition.”

“Boston University has built the platform from which you can do that,” stated Schmidt, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown. “I know it’s daunting. I know it’s not a great economy to be walking off this stage into. I know all this.

“But I know you have an advantage–a competitive edge–you have an innate mastery of technology, an ability to build and foster connections that no generation before you ever possessed. The fact that we are all connected now is a blessing, not a curse, and we can solve many problems in the world as a result.”

Schmidt concluded his address by telling the BU class of 2012 “I for one am happy to have you join us as adults, and the quicker we can have you lead, the better. Time to throw out all us aging baby boomers and replace us with those best-equipped to lead us into a new age, march us all to a better day.

“The power and possibility–the intellectual energy and human electricity–seated in this stadium, and in stadiums and auditoriums like this around the country–your generation will break a new day.”

The Honorable Sandra Lynch, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals First Circuit, kicked-off today’s formal commencement events at New England’s largest graduation ceremony, by delivering the Commencement Day baccalaureate address at Marsh Chapel. Lynch later received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the main service.

Also receiving honorary degrees at Commencement were: former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Norman Augustine (Doctor of Science); Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient, Thomas G. Kelley (Doctor of Laws); and noted actor, Leonard Nimoy (Doctor of Humane Letters).

Leila Belmahi (CAS’12) delivered the student address.

High-resolution digital photography:

– 2012 BU Commencement participant photos can be downloaded at the following URL (password: BostonU, case sensitive):

– 2012 BU Commencement ceremony photos can be downloaded at the following gallery (password: buphotos): (Note: this link will lead to a blank page until BU Photography populates it, beginning Sunday afternoon.)

Complete info on BU’s 139th commencement weekend, including individual convocation ceremonies, can be found at: You can also follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook for continuous updates.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.


Tagged , , , , , , ,

Boston University 139th Commencement Baccalaureate Address: Chief Judge Sandra L. Lynch

May 20th, 2012 in News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Sandra L. Lynch
Chief Judge
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Boston University Baccalaureate Speech
Marsh Chapel
May 20, 2012

Thank you, Dean Hill, for such a warm introduction.

It is clear Boston University has thrived under President Brown’s leadership. Among his other attributes, it is impossible to say “no” to him. After I had accepted, with pleasure, the President’s invitation to receive an honorary degree, only then did he tell me he would like me to give this Baccalaureate address.

I feel a bit like those medieval minstrels, or even little Tommy Tucker from the nursery rhyme, who had to sing first before having supper. What a glorious supper this occasion is, filled with joy and pride, and hope, and expectations.

This morning’s service envelops you in the spiritual realm. Later today you honor people of distinction from technology, and commerce, the arts, the sciences, and military service. I want to speak of the civil realm: the realm of citizenship, of love of country, and of your government.

One of the greatest fortunes of your lives is that you are participants in our American democracy, with its independent judiciary and its system of justice. Our democracy is built on both the checks and balances structure of the three branches of government and on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, limiting government.

The executive and legislative branches are meant to reflect the political will of the voters. In the judicial branch, unlike the other two branches, we judges take an oath of impartiality, not to be partisan, to do our jobs “without fear or favor.”

This system is the envy of the world. Your counterparts elsewhere, in the Arab Spring, in Russia, in Syria, in Iran, in China, in Chile, to give a few examples, have put their lives at risk to achieve what you have.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: “There is nothing in the world greater than freedom.” Under our secular “sacred” text, the U.S. Constitution, you enjoy considerable freedoms, including the freedom of academic inquiry here at Boston University. You have freedom to worship your own religion and not be forced to join another. You enjoy the freedom from arbitrary police and government action.

Perhaps most significantly, you have the ability to change your government and your country. You enjoy freedom of speech, of association, and the benefits of free press. You have the ability to vote, the ability to communicate your views, and the ability to associate together with others to challenge and change a government you do not like. You have the ability to make laws and to change the laws, and to do so in order to address the problems which you face.

These freedoms are important human values in their own right and worth preserving. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has said, our Constitutional values are not embedded in the human gene code. Far from it: they must be taught, and valued, and used, lest they be lost.

Our system of government has worked remarkably well for over two centuries. It has gotten our country through profound problems and changed who we are, and done so for the better. My own life experiences tell me that is true, and it will be true for you.

When I came to BU, our country was rocked by unrest and faced difficult issues. My generation wondered if we would survive. It was the era of the possibility of nuclear annihilation, of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the anti-war movement. Blatant race and gender discrimination were prevalent. Extreme inequities in access to opportunity had led to demonstrations, riots, the burning of neighborhoods and clashes with police. During this time and in the Boston area, I was tear gassed while marching to protest the war in Vietnam and I was called foul names by ugly crowds when I marched with people of color in favor of civil rights. Talk of revolution and dissolution was in the air.

My fears about the future were captured in the words of William Butler Yeats, in his poem “The Second Coming.” He wrote: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The problems then were daunting. But under our democracy, we got through them.

The hymn we just sang at this service was “Behold a broken world.” You know better than I the problems of this broken world and that you and your country must somehow address them.

There is much corrosive cynicism today, much polarization, much lack of civility. Some say they have no faith in government to address problems. You could reasonably ask whether the fact that our democracy has not failed us in the past is any assurance at all that it will lead you to solutions in the future.

My response is that our democratic form of government and the tools the Constitution gives you provide some of the best ways you have of addressing current problems. And I also answer that, if you do not use those tools, including your right to vote, to speak and to organize in order to assure government will be honest, responsive and to be relevant, the chances of your finding solutions are considerably less.

You are graduating and being asked to take responsibility for yourself and your own life. The scope of that responsibility goes beyond yourself, to the sort of society in which you live. President John F. Kennedy famously said, “to ask not what your country could do for you, but what you could do for your country.” Your country needs you.

That responsibility means the preserving of the institutions of your democracy, which are the institutions of government.

It also means exercising those freedoms that the Constitution has given you, and to do so in order to shape your society and your futures.

BU students often have done so before. Forty five years ago, students on this campus used those tools and changed our country. Defying a state law, a man named William Baird gave a lecture at Boston University to over 2,000 students. The topic was birth control. An unmarried 19-year-old female student accepted from Baird some contraceptive foam. Married people, but not unmarried people, could legally be given contraception. Baird was arrested and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting distribution of contraceptives to unmarried people. The penalty was up to five years of imprisonment.

The whole event had been deliberately set up on the BU campus in order to bring a constitutional challenge. The federal court on which I now sit held the statute unconstitutional and released Baird on the writ of habeas corpus. In 1972 the Supreme Court agreed, in a case is called Eisenstadt v. Baird, after the then Sheriff and Mr. Baird. When the story is told, it is most often about Baird, who deserves great credit.

Let me shift the perspective. Of all the college campuses in Boston, this took place at BU and that does not surprise me – – BU has always looked to the future. More than that, credit must be given to the BU students who went to the lecture, and particularly to the unmarried 19-year-old female undergraduate, who made the test case possible. Those students wanted to change an unjust law and to expand the protection of individual freedoms. This was no small matter and it was not just about contraceptives. The overturning of the state law led to the development of doctrines of constitutionally protected personal privacy, which have reshaped our society.

These changes take time, they take patience, they take perseverance. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

You have keys to affect your future and to take steps to be sure that “the center holds.” Take responsibility. Go forward with your intelligence, your education, and with courage. And use all the tools and freedoms our American democracy and its system of law give you. No one is better suited than you.

We give into your hands the safekeeping of our Constitution and our democracy. Please, we ask you, keep them safe and flourishing.

Tagged , , , , , ,