As war continues to rage in Ukraine, Harvard affiliates hailed the selection of Moldovan President Maia Sandu to deliver the Harvard Kennedy School graduation speech in May.
Moldova, a small, impoverished country in Eastern Europe bordering Ukraine, has taken in more than 100,000 refugees since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, despite having a population of less than 3 million. ‘inhabitants. Sandu, who mounted a pro-European Union and pro-democracy platform to win the 2020 presidential election, led Moldovan efforts to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by war.
Mariana Budjeryn, a Ukrainian fellow at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, highlighted US President Joe Biden’s pledge to accept 100,000 refugees, calling it “immeasurable” for the US and Moldova – a country a hundred times smaller – to accommodate the same number. of people.
“This is an important story to tell the American people,” said Ilinca Mazureac, 23, a student from Moldova. “That a country like Moldova, which is arguably one of the poorest countries in Europe, can take in so many refugees and can find a place for them to live.”
“If Moldova can do it, it should be a lot easier for the United States to do it,” Mazureac added.
Ilya S. Timchenko, a Ukrainian-American citizen and chairman of the Ukrainian Caucus at the HKS, said Sandu’s speech will have “symbolic significance” because of the leader’s longstanding solidarity with Ukraine.
HKS spokesman James F. Smith wrote in a statement that the Kennedy School invited Sandu before the invasion of Ukraine.
“Obviously his leadership since then makes it all the more appropriate for the students of Kennedy School to hear from him,” Smith wrote.
Mihaela Esanu ’23, a Moldovan student, said Ukraine and Moldova have struggled against “Russian aggression” since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“One of the reasons why there was so much solidarity among Moldovans [was] because we were connected with the Ukrainians,” Esanu said. “It was on the minds of a lot of Moldovans that ‘Oh, it could have been us, and it could still be us.'”
“It doesn’t mean that Moldovans are going through what Ukrainians are going through,” Esanu added. “But I think our similarities are rooted in a somewhat common past.”
Budjeryn said she hoped Sandu’s graduation speech would remind HKS graduates of their own democratic values.
“As a Ukrainian, I hope these public policy leaders will be invigorated with a healthy dose of idealism about their own values,” Budjeryn said. “Or the values that their own country defends or claims to defend.”
“We kind of lost sight of the fact that these values don’t belong exclusively to the West,” Budjeryn added. “There’s something universal about wanting to have an agency and living with a voice in a political society.”
Budjeryn said that Eastern European countries’ solidarity with Ukraine reminded him of the motto of the Kennedy School: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
“Maybe it’s not just so national,” she said. “Maybe it’s, ‘What you can do – not just for the country – but what you can do for the world to make it a better place.'”
—Editor Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.