ONDCP’s Michael Botticelli Gives Milken Institute SPH Graduation Celebration Address

On Saturday, May 16, 2015, Milken Institute School of Public Health (SPH) recognized its 465 graduates with a celebration held in Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington University (GW) campus. Among them were the first graduating class of the school's online Master of Public Health program. Graduates earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in a variety of public health concentrations.  

The proud graduates along with parents, family members, friends and faculty members heard remarks by Dean Lynn R. Goldman as well as a graduation address by Michael Botticelli, MEd, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for the Obama Administration. The ONDCP advises the president on drug control issues and produces the annual National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines the Administration’s efforts to reduce illicit drug use. Botticelli congratulated the class of 2015, saying that with their hard-earned degree in public health they could now go out and change the world. “Once you leave the GW campus, the problems you solve will impact the health of millions of people, and the lives of the millions more who love them,” he said in his speech. Botticelli also urged the 2015 graduates not to forget about the people behind the statistics of public health. People like Taylor, who Botticelli, said was an avid animal rescuer and a cheerleader back in high school. Taylor never got a chance to save the world because her life got cut short at the age of 20, when she overdosed and died, Botticelli told the graduates. He also told the audience of his own personal story of recovery from substance abuse. “I am telling you this because chances are that you will not remember much of what I say today but there is a good chance you will remember these stories.” Botticelli went on to tell the graduates to keep in mind the real-life stories of people as they did the hard work of public health, including changing policies that affect the health of millions. “Science and data alone are often insufficient to drive public policy,” Botticelli said, adding: “People drive public policy and their stories matter.” His speech was followed by the 2015 graduates filing across the stage to receive their diplomas in public health – and the charge to go out and make the world a healthier place for all the Taylors of the world. 

View a selection of photos from the day's events on the school's Facebook page.