President William J. Clinton will make a major address before graduates at the MIT Commencement exercises on June 5. It will be the first time a sitting US president has spoken at MIT (see related story on this page).
"We are honored and delighted that President Clinton has selected MIT as the place to deliver a major address to people who will be leaders of the 21st century," said President Charles M. Vest. "The future will be shaped in large measure by advances in science and technology, and MIT is the home of many of the people making those advances. We look forward to the President's address and his vision."
The opportunity to have President Clinton address the graduates developed over several days before the April 21 White House announcement, as the White House established its plans for this year's Commencement addresses by the President.
The White House contacted President Vest's office on April 17 to discuss it, and President Clinton's offer was accepted by Dr. Vest after he consulted with Dr. David D. Ho, who had been invited in February to be MIT's Commencement speaker. Both President Clinton and Dr. Ho will address more than 2,000 graduates who will receive their degrees in June (the President following Dr. Ho).
"I am deeply honored to speak to the graduates of MIT, and even more so to share the podium with President Clinton," said Dr. Ho, the scientific director and chief executive officer of the largest private HIV/AIDS research center in the world, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York.
Dr. Ho, who in 1996 was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine, overturned the conventional assumption that the HIV virus remains dormant for up to 10 years in a person before its outbreak into AIDS. His recognition that the virus is extremely active right from the beginning of infection led him to initiate the deployment of a combination of drugs to overpower the virus.
Dr. Vest commented, "Dr. Ho's work demonstrates the critical importance of science to the solution of problems such as AIDS that plague our society. His work should remind us all of the great benefits America reaps from opening doors, institutions and opportunities to immigrants. We are proud to claim him as a graduate of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology."
About 10,000 people -- graduates, family, friends, and MIT faculty and staff -- will attend the ceremonies in Killian Court. Because President Clinton's address will be an additional element in the ceremony, Dr. Vest will forgo his usual charge to the graduates, but all other aspects of the program will remain the same. "We are honored to have two extraordinary speakers in Dr. Ho and President Clinton. We also want to maintain a strong focus on our graduates' receipt of their diplomas, so I felt it was important not to devote much more time to speeches," he said.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½
No tickets are available for Commencement beyond the four tickets allotted to each graduate who is to be awarded one (or more) degrees. For the latest information, see the Commencement web page.
See related stories on former and future US Presidents who have visited MIT, and a roster of Commencement speakers over the years.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 29, 1998.