CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--President Charles M. Vest of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology offered a wish for a "life well-lived" to its
newest graduates today (June 9), but acknowledged that this would be a
difficult achievement and require sacrifice in "a world permeated with
both hope and despair."
"Live your lives well," he told the members of the Class of 1995 in
his traditional Charge to the Graduates at MIT's 129th commencement.
"Ponder the unthinkable. Question the status quo. Live in the world as
well as your own nation. Dream of a better future and contribute to the
present. Share your talents. Be competent friends and bold companions to
the young. Address the really important issues of your times. Be honest
and do not run out."
"Ours is a world of contrasts," Dr. Vest said.
"We are coming to understand our common stake in the global
environment and the global economy. Yet there is a terrifying resurgence
of nationalist and ethnic conflict in many countries, and there are
truly incredible levels of violence and purposelessness in our own
nation. It is a world that is experiencing both scientific progress and
economic advancement at the same time that there is growing
stratification of wealth and divisions among peoples. It is a world
permeated with both hope and despair."
He said similar challenges were faced by earlier generations of MIT
students--especially by the 50-year Class of 1945 which "brought
science, technology and personal valor to bear in the defeat of the
undisputed evil of Nazism," and by the 25-year Class of 1970, "which
struggled with the moral, intellectual and political dilemmas of the
Viet Nam War and its meaning for American society."
Dr. Vest called up the example of former MIT President Jerome
Wiesner, who died last fall, as a man who "showed us all a life well-
"His was a life that drew deeply on science and engineering," Dr.
Vest said, "but also encompassed humanism, educational leadership,
artistic sensibilities, and statecraft."
"He promoted the growth of the humanities, the arts and the social
sciences in our midst," he said. "He led us in bringing women and
minorities into our academy. He maintained an international perspective
and world view in all that he did."
Noting that Dr. Wiesner was science advisor to two presidents, Dr.
Vest noted that he "convened informal and impassioned dialogue among
government officials and student protesters" and "worked tirelessly to
awaken the world from the nightmare of nuclear standoff."
Yet throughout his life on the world stage, Dr. Wiesner "lived
quietly and simply," Dr. Vest said.
He continued: "How does Jerry's life relate to us and the Class of
1945? We--like they--must turn our talents to the greater good and be
prepared to sacrifice in the effort when the times demand it.
"How does it relate to us and the Class of '70? We--like they--must
boldly address the profound dilemmas which the world presents to us.
"How does it relate to the world you face, and which you will soon
shape and lead?
"You must keep alive the joy, excitement, beauty, rationality, and
creativity of science and technology, deeply understood. Yet you must
understand the power and potential of science and technology to enable
great good, but also evil. In other words, you must never cease to
consider the context in which its powers are applied and its ability to
shape the world for better or worse. You must strive to understand
complexity and to contemplate the world from a systems perspective.
Strive to integrate the understandings of humanists and artists with
those of scientists, engineers, managers, architects, planners, and