Who is Shruthi Kumar, the Harvard student to raise her voice in support of 13 classmates barred from graduating


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Shruthi Kumar, an Indian-origin Harvard student spoke against Harvard University, her alma mater, in her commencement ceremony speech on the university campus.  Shruthi defended the rights of her 13 classmates who were barred from graduating for their pro-Palestine protests. Around 1,000 of the students staged a walkout after her speech in support of the 13 students barred by Harvard University from graduating for their protests against the war in Gaza. This speech comes at a time when US universities have been seeing on-campus protests in favor of Gaza.

She just went off script and said, “As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers – the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 that will not graduate today,” said student Shruthi Kumar, who was chosen to deliver the English commencement remarks for the undergraduate class.

The Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body, voted on Wednesday to halt the students’ graduation. Kumar’s original speech was previously on The Power of Not Knowing, encouraging students to embrace uncertainty as they transition on from school, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Graduating Shruthi Kumar was one of the three students who won the honor to speak at the graduation through an annual contest hosted by the university.

She has always been vocal about her experience as a student and as an Indian-origin person. In her write-up in the Harvard Magazine, she has discussed the power of not knowing or having a paved path. She discussed how her parents did not even know how to apply to a US college as they had never attended one. “I grew up in the Great Plains of Nebraska alongside cattle ranches and cornfields. As the eldest daughter of South Asian immigrants, I was the first in my family to go to college here in the US,” Shruthi wrote in the magazine.

Her life journey has been about figuring it out and embracing the unknown. She wrote,”From Nebraska to Harvard, I found myself redefining this feeling of not knowing. I discovered a newfound power in how much I didn’t know.”

“I learnt this not only in the classroom, but also from the Class of 2024. In reflecting on our collective journey at Harvard, I’ve learnt it’s often the moments of uncertainty from which something greater than we could have ever imagined grows.” she said.

On her website, she writes, “My high school journey was filled with transformation, self-discovery, and inspiration. If you are just entering high school, I hope this website inspires you to create your own story, embrace your interests and passions, and empowers you to break barriers and influence change!” As a teenager, she was the first Indian American Yogi to represent team USA. Shruthi is the 2019 National Speech and Debate Association Original Oratory National Finalist (5th)  and National Speech and Debate Association Academic All-American and National AP Scholar with Distinction apart from various other awards.

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