President Reif’s Charge to 2017 Graduates

President Reif’s Charge to 2017 Graduates

October 13, 2019 11 By Stanley Isaacs


L RAFAEL REIF: Thank you, Liana,
for a very nice speech you gave us, and for your remarks. I want to deeply thank
the senior gift committee, and everyone who contributed
to this wonderful gift to support student
activities at MIT. I also want to recognize
the alumni volunteers from the New York Metro area
who provided the challenge grant to increase the impact of gifts
from this year’s senior class. Many of those challengers
are in the audience today. So, thank you. Thank you for your
leadership and generosity. Now to the graduates– [APPLAUSE] Now to the graduates of
2017, congratulations. [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] You have to suffer
my speech first. My job today is to
deliver a charge to you. And I will get to
that in a minute. But first, I want to
recognize the people who help you charge this far. To everyone who came here
this morning to celebrate our graduates, welcome to MIT. [APPLAUSE] Now, graduates, for this
next acknowledgment, I’m going to need your help. Right behind me, over my left
shoulder, there is a camera. In a moment, I’m going
to ask you to please cheer and wave to the camera. So please, cheer and
wave when I ask you. I would like to offer a
special greeting to all those who were not able
to come to campus, but who are watching and
cheering on today’s graduates online, from locations
all over the globe. We are very glad to
have you with us, too. Now, graduates,
this is the moment. Please cheer and wave. [CHEERING] [APPLAUSE] Look, I think you can
do better than that. And remember, I’ve
still got your diplomas. So one more time,
please cheer and wave. [CHEERING] Thank you. And to the parents and
families of today’s graduates, a huge congratulations
to you, as well. For you, this day
is the joyful result of years of loving
support and sacrifice. Please accept our deep
gratitude and admiration. [APPLAUSE] It is great to have
all of you here on Killian Court on
this wonderful day for this tremendously
important occasion. In fact, this is such a
solemn and serious ceremony that I thought you would not
mind if we play a little game. With a big shoutout to
graduating senior Lilly Chin– [SCATTERED CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] –I call this game
MIT Jeopardy 2017. [CHEERING] So, you all know
how Jeopardy works. I give the clues, and
then you give the answers, but in the form of questions. So let me give you a couple
of examples just to practice. If the clue is– here
is the first clue– this revolutionary
gene editing system shares its name with a
drawer in your refrigerator, you would say what is? SPEAKER: CRISPR. L RAFAEL REIF: Whoa,
that was great. What is CRISPR. Next clue. [CHEERING] Next clue. The vibrations from
this phenomenon were so gigantic that
they could be detected three billion light years away. You would say what are the
campus-wide dance parties. [LAUGHTER] [CHEERING] OK, looks like you’ve got it. Ready to play. I expect you to answer
the next one loudly. So listen closely. Here is your clue. This school in
Cambridge, Massachusetts may, in fact, be the
world’s greatest university. What is? SPEAKER: (SHOUTING) MIT! L RAFAEL REIF: OK, one more. One more. If the clue is
this field of study is known for enrolling all of
the smartest students at MIT, now obviously that would be,
of course– oh, stop, stop. Wrong clue. Wrong clue. Big mistake. I’m not going there. [LAUGHTER] Now, if the clue is this
brave and brilliant man is the current CEO of
Apple, you might be tempted to say who is Tim Cook. But without question,
the best answer would be who is the
spiciest memelord. [CHEERING] I was extremely impressed by
Tim’s remarks this morning. And I expect you were, too. Over the last few years, he
has taken bold public positions on key issues, on free
speech, gay rights, the right to privacy,
climate change, and more. In doing so, I
believe he’s setting a tremendous example
of what it means to be a citizen and a leader. And I’m deeply grateful
to have Tim with us today. [APPLAUSE] But when we first invited
Tim to speak at commencement, I tried to talk him into doing
something a little different. I said, Tim, it’s perfect. MIT commencement is on a Friday. You always release your
new phones on a Friday. So how about releasing
the iPhone 8? [LAUGHTER] Tim did not bite. But the truth is, today I am the
one presiding over the release of a mind-blowing new product. This product is a
limited edition, and it’s extremely personalized. In fact, it comes in more
than 2,700 varieties. And let me tell you, when
you line them up together, they make an impressive
and beautiful display. You do make an impressive
and beautiful display. The operating system for our
latest product is amazing. It has unmatched processing
ability and built-in memory. I know because we have
tested it and retested it over and over and over. [APPLAUSE] And Tim, I have to point out
that our product already has 3D sensing facial recognition. [LAUGHTER] At MIT, we know that our product
can do extraordinary things that we never thought
possible before today. From experience,
we know that people are willing to pay a tremendous
amount for this product. [LAUGHTER] And that is really no
surprise, because I’m very proud to tell you that
the product we launched today has an unlimited capacity
to augment reality, to make a better world. [APPLAUSE] There are rumors that the iPhone
8 may no longer have a Home button. But those of you who graduate
today certainly do, right here. And I hope that it
will always bring you back right here to
your home at MIT. [APPLAUSE] Now, before you
get those diplomas, let’s demonstrate your
capacity for wireless charging. I have no doubt that the
creativity of today’s graduates will be the source of new
products, new capabilities, new discoveries, new
designs, new organizations, and whole new industries. We should not be surprised
if some of those new concepts are deeply disruptive. Disrupting old systems
and assumptions can be a very good
idea, but it can also have a great human cost. And I believe that, as
members of this Institute of Technology, thinking
about this human question is very much our business, too. It is not something– it is not something– we can leave for other
people to figure out. And it’s a question
where we may need to do more listening than
talking for quite a while. So I want to leave
you with this thought. At MIT, our mission guides
us to advance knowledge, to educate students,
and to bring knowledge to bear on the world’s
great challenges. As a result, we are
driven and motivated to work on big problems, and
we like to solve them, in part, by developing new technologies. But the truth is that one
of today’s great challenges is how to help society
navigate the unintended impact of technology itself. So as you work together
to conjure new ideas, to invent new products, to
design new ways to manufacture them, and devise new ways
to use them in the world, I hope you will consider their
impact on all of society right from the start. If you can make
this assessment not an afterthought but
a first concern, you will contribute
to solving one of the deepest and most
difficult challenges of our time. During the time you have
spent on our campus, the fabric of our
society has experienced many serious strains. So I’m very grateful
that, on this campus, the last few years
have also seen a new blossoming of community,
and of deliberate efforts to cultivate connection
and compassion and shared progress
with shared joy. The feeling of
connection and unity has a great deal to do
with the example and ideas and leadership of those
of you who graduate today. And that is what gives
me the confidence to deliver my charge to you. Now, I’m going to
use a word that feels very comfortable
at MIT, although it has taken on a troubling new
meaning elsewhere in the world. But I know that our graduates
will know what I mean. After you depart for
your new destinations, I want to ask you to hack the
world until you make the world a little more like MIT. More daring and more passionate,
more rigorous, inventive, and ambitious, more humble,
more respectful, more generous, more kind. This morning, I see more
than 2,700 new graduates, who are ready for that
lifelong problem set. You made MIT better, and you
will make a better world. You came to MIT with exceptional
qualities of your own, and now you leave us equipped
with a rare set of skills, and steeped in this
community’s deepest values– a commitment to excellence,
integrity, meritocracy, boldness, humility, an open
spirit of collaboration, a strong desire to
make a positive impact, and a sense of responsibility to
make the world a better place. I hope you take your
MIT values with you, and I hope you always take
time to listen to the world, because that is the secret of
making yourselves the finest human beings and the most
magnificent MIT product that you can be,
because I also see a planet that urgently needs
everything you have to offer. So now, go out there, join
the world, find your calling, solve the unsolvable, invent
the future, take the high road, and you will continue
to make your family, including your
MIT family, proud. On this wonderful day,
I’m proud of all of you. To every one of the members of
the graduating class of 2017, please accept my best wishes
for a happy and successful life and career. Congratulations. [APPLAUSE]