Sherman James Considers the "Pursuit of Happiness" at Diploma Ceremony


Sherman James

Before a packed Dixon Hall, Sherman James, the Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, delivered the commencement address to Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine graduates last week.

In his address, James, a social epidemiologist, defined the pursuit of happiness as the pursuit of a “satisfactory state of existence,” or wellbeing, as the inalienable right this country’s founder’s intended.  He urged the graduates to safeguard the right of all people to pursue that state and to sound the alarm when they detect “the formation of densely woven patterns of disadvantage, for it is these that have the greatest moral urgency.”

Cien Kielty-Lucas, an international health and development student who received his master’s of public health at the ceremony, also addressed the audience.  Kielty-Lucas was selected as the student commencement speaker by a panel of faculty and staff judges. 

In his speech, Kielty-Lucas described how he strayed from his path as a Master’s International student and now works as the public health specialist for the Tesfa Foundation in Ethiopia.  “I have found a new home,” he told those gathered, “leaving sidewalk crawfish boils for the bouquet of flavors within a bayanetu, and the Mardi Gras rumpus for the solemnity of Timkat.” 

He applauded the experience he received in the classroom.  “Through discussion, we have disentangled our individual notion of subject matter,” he said, “and with our professors and classmates, created a communal understanding of public health.”

He joined in that understanding of public health with 146 students who received master’s degrees.  Fifteen students were hooded in recognition of the completion of their doctoral studies.  

May 20, 2011




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