J Carrier

Although formal commencement ceremonies are absent this year, over the last several weeks this profession has welcomed thousands of new colleagues. To the women and men who have completed their studies and look to begin a career in the profession of architecture, I want to say two things: welcome, and the world needs you.

You achieved this milestone during a difficult and daunting time. The last few months have been uncertain and tragic. You begin your journey in a world that will measure time by before the COVID-19 pandemic and after.

Just as other generations have met the unique challenges of their time—from fighting and defeating tyranny abroad in World War II, to standing up to racial injustice and creating a basic social safety net in this country two decades later, to navigating a cold war, and then a hot war on terror—every generation is called to meet unique and serious challenges that will define them.

All of us will be defined by how we meet the challenge of COVID-19 and the related, longer-term challenge of climate change. There is no playbook, no historical touchstone for navigating a global pandemic or an environmental disaster in the 21st century.

While COVID-19 has reminded us of our vulnerability as a society and as individuals, it has also revealed what is best about humanity: compassion and sacrifice for the greater good.

Your training as an architect will make you invaluable to your community. The ability to envision something that doesn’t yet exist, to solve problems with a mixture of equal part technical acumen, creative instincts, and passion to leave our world better than you found it—all of this confers an added duty to look for ways to help and to serve.

It is true that COVID-19 has touched and reshaped our lives and will present challenges that we haven’t thought of today. It is also true that we don’t have to be defined by those or any other challenges we face. Instead, we can choose to be defined by our response personally, professionally, and as citizens of the global community.

I can’t tell you how proud I am that so many continue to choose architecture as their path in life. Our profession, as you know, has a long, rich history of providing solutions to society’s challenges through the power of design.

I look forward to working with you and your colleagues to solve the challenges ahead, one project and one community at a time.

Even though I won’t personally meet many of you, I have no doubt that I will see your impact. The paradox of the COVID-19 pandemic is that while it has required us to social distance, it has helped bring us all closer and has reminded us how connected we are.

The truth is, both the pandemic and climate change have scrambled even our most basic assumptions of what the future will look like. Like you, I don’t have any idea what the “new normal” will look like, but I know this: Collectively, we have the power to meet the many challenges in the days ahead. I also know that we will be stronger in the end for our efforts.

We all have a lot of work ahead of us. Our job at AIA is to help you help your community not just during this current crisis, but for years to come. COVID-19 will continue to alter what we consider normal. AIA is committed to ensuring that you have the tools, knowledge, and policies you need to respond to the challenges of the new normal and to lead efforts to create a healthier, safer, more equitable, and sustainable built world.

If there is a bright spot to the COVID-19 tragedy, it is that it has demonstrated what is best about all of us, and the power of individual action to help solve a global challenge.

Again, congratulations to all of the new graduates. I look forward to seeing how you make a difference in a world that desperately needs your talent and energy to meet the challenges ahead.