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Firefighters in a Flammable World: Celebrating the SAIS Class of 2024

May 22, 2024

The Johns Hopkins SAIS community celebrated the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 in a rousing commencement ceremony held on May 22, 2024. Nearly 3,000 people—the graduates, their families and friends, SAIS faculty, staff, and alumni—came together for the school’s 80th commencement at DAR Constitution Hall on a warm, sunny day in Washington, D.C.

The school conferred degrees on more than 600 graduates in the Master of Arts in International Relations, Master of International Public Policy, Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance, Master of Arts in Global Policy, Master of Arts in Global Risk, Master of Arts in Sustainable Energy, Master of Arts in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence; Doctor of International Affairs, and Doctor of Philosophy programs.

David Miliband, a renowned diplomat and humanitarian leader who now serves as president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, delivered the commencement address. Drawing on a metaphor of sudden flames to describe our world, in which major crises—some of them man-made—can quickly ignite without much warning, he urged the graduates to be as vigilant as firefighters.

“Our flammable world is full of tinder and full of arsonists; and some of them are in power,” said Miliband, who previously served as the United Kingdom’s secretary of state for foreign affairs. “So, we need firefighters, preventing fire and fighting fire with bravery, with insight, and with innovation.”

Miliband reminded the Class of 2024 graduates—whose backgrounds span 51 countries—that they should be proud of the time they’ve spent studying global affairs: because it shows they care enough to learn more about the realities faced by people in other parts of the world different from theirs.

He stated: “You are not faceless “globalists”. We need to take on that epithet. The assertion of those who use “globalist” as a term of abuse is that to be concerned about the world is to neglect the home front. The truth is the opposite. You, with your concern to understand what is happening beyond your locality and your nation, are the face of a better future for your localities and nations. The reason is simple: we live in a connected world.”

Miliband urged the Class of 2024 to avoid the temptation to rely too much on their own abilities in the years ahead. “Life and work are team sports,” he said. “And great teams are defined by the abiding interest of every member of the team in the success of other members of the team… Making the world a better place is a team sport.”

In his remarks, SAIS Dean James Steinberg noted that some members of the Class of 2024 will always be the only SAIS students to have studied in both the school’s former home in Washington, D.C.’s Massachusetts Avenue, as well as the new home at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, which SAIS moved into in August 2023.

“I thank you for the resilience, good humor and dedication you showed in putting up with the inconveniences that came with our move into the new building,” Dean Steinberg said. “In the years ahead, I hope you will demonstrate these same qualities in supporting the next groups of SAIS students who will be following your path. And I look forward to welcoming you back to your forever home at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

SAIS Europe held its commencement ceremony in Bologna, Italy on May 18. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s commencement will take place in Nanjing, China on June 14.

2024 Commencement Awards

Commencement Social Wall

Commencement Photo Album

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Commencement 2024