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President Hockfield's charge to the graduates

MIT's 139th Commencement
Susan Hockfield addresses graduates at MIT's Commencement held June 3, 2005.
Susan Hockfield addresses graduates at MIT's Commencement held June 3, 2005.
Photo / L. Barry Hetherington

Graduates of MIT: This is your day. We have gathered here today in Killian Court to celebrate your accomplishments--the successful completion of demanding courses of study, often lasting several years. You have our deepest respect for all that you have accomplished. But today is not yours alone. None of you would be here this morning were it not for the families and friends who have nurtured and supported you since childhood--who have embraced your dreams and lighted your path. This is their day, too. Graduates, I ask you please to rise and thank those families and friends.

* * *

A month ago, I stood here in Killian Court and spoke about what defines MIT--and about my dreams and hopes for this great institution. Those inaugural remarks were addressed to the whole Institute community. This morning, I would like to speak to those of you who are graduating today--about my hopes and dreams for you.

You, our graduates, are exceptional individuals. You arrived at MIT with remarkable native talents, already honed by years of demanding study. Here, you have learned from a brilliant faculty, and--just as important--from each other. You have learned about complex subject matter and you have learned about yourselves. Now, as you leave MIT, I challenge you to put what you have learned here to work, for the good of this nation and the world. Because we have never needed your talents and skills more than we do now.

We live in an uncertain, unsettled age. And we face great challenges--to name only a few--in energy, in climate change, in contagious diseases, in the design of our urban communities and in global poverty.

You--the graduates of MIT--are uniquely equipped to address issues like these. You are ready to make the necessary advances in science and technology, to employ rigorous quantitative and qualitative analysis, and to develop new methods of interdisciplinary inquiry and problem-solving. So, at times in the years ahead when a choice of direction presents itself, I hope you will ask yourselves, "Where can I do the most good? How can I make a difference in the world?"

Now, you will not be able to do this work alone. Meeting the great challenges of our era will require teamwork and collaboration. You will need to draw not only on what you have learned in the classroom and lab, but also on what you have learned about the importance of community.

As the currents of your lives draw you away from MIT's shores, you will in important and real ways remain part of this community. At the close of this morning's ceremony, Linda Sharpe, the president of the Alumni Association, will formally welcome you into the association's membership. We hope you will stay connected and engaged with the life of the Institute.

But beyond your own connection to MIT, I hope that you will also transmit the values that define this community to the other communities you will now join; that you will see leadership as an opportunity to serve the common good; that you will make integrity the touchstone of your judgments; that you will exemplify the pursuit of truth and an unwavering drive toward excellence; and that you will continue to demonstrate the value of plain old-fashioned hard work.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially: I ask you to inspire your own generation and those to come with a renewed sense of possibility and optimism for the future. Here at MIT, we see up close the myriad ways in which science and technology promise to benefit humankind. If we are to realize that promise, we need to kindle in others the same love and passion for truth and discovery, for creativity and problem-solving, that brought us all here. I hope that each of you will embrace this challenge as your own.

I would not set you this charge if I did not think you could meet it. I have tremendous faith in you. The intelligence, diligence and creativity you have demonstrated here at MIT have inspired us all. And I know that in the years to come you will do even more--and surprise and delight us with achievements we could never have predicted.

For now, in closing, let me say simply, "Congratulations, graduates of MIT!"

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 8, 2005 (download PDF).

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