Michael Bloomberg addresses the graduates

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Commencement 2021

Michael Bloomberg urges graduates to 'be present for others'

'Digital technology cannot replace physical togetherness,' entrepreneur, philanthropist, and JHU alum tells the Hopkins Class of 2021

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, three-term mayor of New York City, and Johns Hopkins University graduate Michael R. Bloomberg returned to campus to address the Class of 2021 at Commencement on Thursday, speaking to the graduates about "the importance of togetherness" after a year largely marked by virtual gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Over the past year, we've gotten a good look at how digital technology cannot replace physical togetherness," Bloomberg said during remarks that lasted nearly 22 minutes. "Not when it comes to being with family and friends, not when it comes to being with professors and classmates, not when it comes to attending a party or going to a museum, and not when it comes to interacting with colleagues and coworkers in whatever field you choose to pursue, whether it's science or medicine, engineering or business, the arts, or the military.

This was Bloomberg's third time offering the university's Commencement speech, and the first since 2010.

"I hope you will take one big idea with you, because it really could not be more important," he said. "And that is simply, be present for others, in your careers and your personal lives. Because ultimately, it's only through the power of our relationships that we can fulfill our potential and that we can build teams capable of creating a society that is more just, more equal, more peaceful, and, in the words of our nation's founders, more perfect."

Over the past 56 years, Bloomberg's unparalleled support for Johns Hopkins has immeasurably enhanced everything from the undergraduate experience, to campus infrastructure, to the possibility for scientific discovery, all in the name of ensuring that more young people from all backgrounds have access to higher education, making the world safer and healthier, and deepening the global reputation of his alma mater. During the Class of 2021's time at Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg made a historic $1.8 billion gift entirely for financial aid, allowing the university to permanently offer need-blind admissions and eliminate the need for student loans. Approximately 60% of the graduating class received financial aid supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg's innovations in business, government, and philanthropy have made him a global leader on climate change, public health, education, and other critical issues facing America and the world. The founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomberg serves as World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, and the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions.

Born in Boston and raised in Medford, Massachusetts, he earned a BS in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University, graduating in 1964. His first donation to the university, $5, came in 1965. Since then, Bloomberg has become the largest donor in the 145-year history of the Johns Hopkins institutions with his total giving to the university now exceeding $3.5 billion.