Engaged public servant, historic civic leader and champion of inclusion, Michelle Wu ’07, JD ’12, has been selected by Harvard College’s Class of 2022 to address graduating students in the annual Class Day Celebration May 25, the day before Harvard 371st Commencement.
Wu became Boston’s first woman and first person of color elected city leader when she became mayor in 2021. On her inauguration day, she wrote in The boston globe that “Boston was founded on a revolutionary promise: that things don’t have to be what they always have been. That we can chart a new course for families now and for generations to come, based on justice and opportunity.
“We are truly thrilled and honored to welcome Mayor Michelle Wu as our class day speaker,” said Ruth Jaensubhakij ’22, Second Marshal and Co-Chair of the Speaker Selection Committee. “An inspirational leader and a strong advocate for fairness, inclusion and opportunity, Mayor Wu has worked tirelessly for a Boston that supports everyone and will continue to be a model of excellence for the world. As we graduate, we are fortunate to be able to learn from his experiences and his leadership, especially in a time when community engagement is more important than ever.
Wu made history in 2013, at the age of 28, when she was elected to the Boston City Council, becoming the first Asian American woman to hold that position. In 2016, her colleagues unanimously elected her president, making her the first woman of color to lead the council. She was a councilor for eight years before becoming mayor last year.
“I am deeply honored to join this year’s graduating seniors for Class Day, to return to campus with fond memories and newfound excitement,” Wu said. “It is inspiring to see the activism and accomplishments represented in this class, and I look forward to encouraging their leadership for years to come.”
Among her accomplishments as a councilor, Wu has helped reshape the role of city government as a force for urgent change – from passing legislation on paid parental leave, climate resilience, housing stability, food justice, workers’ rights and language access to tariff management. – free public transport and establishment of a Boston Green New Deal.
Prior to taking elected office, she worked in community advocacy, including providing legal advice to low-income small business owners through the Community Enterprise Project, part of the Clinics in transactional law from Harvard Law School, then based at the Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center in Jamaica. Plain. She has also worked at Boston Medical Center’s Medico-Legal Partnership on immigration law cases for survivors of domestic violence and has been involved with the HLS Tenant Advocacy Project and the Harvard Mediation Program.
Her initiation to work at City Hall began under the Thomas M. Menino administration as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy at HLS. She then served as statewide constituency manager during the U.S. Senate campaign of Elizabeth Warren, her former law professor and mentor.
“As the national spokesperson for the importance of civic action at the grassroots level, Mayor Wu understands that not only will our generation be the leaders of the future, but that so many of us are already doing our part,” said said Menat Bahnasy. ’22, First Marshal and Co-Chair of the Speaker Selection Committee. “She understands this because she lived it and made history in the process. Her dedication to community and to the ideals of servant leadership is inspiring. We are proud to welcome her, a former student, and proud of all she has done – and will do.
Among her honors, Wu was named one of 10 “Outstanding Young Leaders” by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and Marie Claire magazine named her part of the “new guard” and one of the ” 50 Most Powerful Women in America”. In 2017, she received the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Award, the party’s highest honor. This year, Boston magazine ranked Wu at the top of its list of “Boston’s 100 Most Influential People,” noting that “it’s not just that she’s the new mayor that makes Wu the most influential Bostonian. of this year ; is that she is a fundamentally new type of mayor.
While at Harvard College, where she majored in economics, Wu worked with the Phillips Brooks House Association’s Chinese Citizenship Program, a program she later directed. As a soprano with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, she sang alongside singers from Harvard and Boston.
Wu has often spoken of his experience of returning home after graduation to care for his mother during a mental health crisis and how that shaped his future in government and public service. At 22, she found herself caring for two younger sisters (becoming a guardian for the youngest), supporting her mother’s recovery, and running a family business. “All of a sudden I realized how much government matters, especially city government,” she said. Harvard Law Today. She brought her family with her when she returned to the Chicago area in 2010 to attend HLS.
Over the years, Wu has returned to campus several times to share her experience and ideas with students. She has participated in several HLS events, including panel discussions on women in politics at the Women’s Law Association annual conference and atLeading cities in a time of great changeat the School’s bicentenary conference. She has also spoken on signs at Harvard Kennedy School Policy Institute (PIO). In 2020, she addressed students at an event hosted by the Kennedy School’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, the School of Law’s Asian Pacific American Law Students’ Association, and the Association of Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese students.
Wu has also served as an alumni interviewer, and in 2019 was appointed to the IOP Senior Advisory Board. At the time of her appointment, she noted, “At this very important time in politics and government, we need young people from all walks of life to bring their talents to public service. IOP has the opportunity to play an important role in inspiring and connecting the next generation to leadership, service and social justice. I am honored to join the Senior Advisory Committee with this goal and I look forward to doing all I can to support the next generation of leaders for the public good. The Advisory Board works closely with the Institute to fulfill its mission of inspiring Harvard students to pursue paths in politics and public service.
The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu grew up in Chicago. She lives in Roslindale with her husband and two children.
The Harvard College Senior Class Committee has invited a guest speaker for the class day since 1968. Previously, the honor was bestowed upon university affiliates, such as deans, professors, or classmates. The first guest was Martin Luther King Jr., who accepted the invitation shortly before his assassination. His widow, Coretta Scott King, gave the speech in his absence, becoming the first woman to give a speech at a Class Day at Harvard. Since then, speakers have covered areas ranging from politics and social activism to journalism, film, comedy and literature. Recent keynotes have been delivered by Nobel Laureate, former US Vice President and leading climate change advocate Al Gore ’69, LLD ’94 and trailblazing athlete, philanthropist and activist Jeremy Lin ’10.
In addition to Wu’s speech, Class Day includes student awards and speeches. The event will begin at 2 p.m. on May 25 at the Tercentenary Theater and will be streamed live online.