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Graduate Student Council President Alex Hamilton Chan's speech to the graduates

'Engineer tomorrow with dreams that transcend the impossible'
Graduate Student Council President Alex Hamilton Chan delivers his address at MIT's 144th Commencement on June 4, 2010.
Graduate Student Council President Alex Hamilton Chan delivers his address at MIT's 144th Commencement on June 4, 2010.
Photo: Dominick Reuter

Below is the prepared text of the speech given by Graduate Student Council President Alex Hamilton Chan for the Institute's 144th Commencement held June 4, 2010.

To the world’s best graduating class, congratulations! You have perfected your technical skills, your academic knowledge, and for some of you, the uncanny ability to make things appear in odd locations. You have achieved mastery of your mind and hands — but that is NOT enough.

The Intellectual power embodied by you needs a meaning, the engineer in you needs a purpose, the mind and hands you have perfected at MIT need a heart. That's right, this is your new motto today: mind, hand and heart.

And so, my fellow engineers of the future: Engineer tomorrow with a heart that knows only virtue. Engineer tomorrow with an imagination of the world as it ought to be. Engineer tomorrow with dreams that transcend the impossible. Only merged with valor and integrity can you truly complete an education.

MIT has empowered you to become a force for good and to be true to your most daring ideas. But with great power, comes great responsibility. For when you are at MIT, you cannot say: “let someone else.” For there is no “someone else.” You are the hope of humanity against the threats of climate change, the menace of wars and abuses of human rights, and the devastations of diseases, epidemics, poverty and economic instability. You are the world’s best and brightest hope.

Seven score and nine years ago, our great Institute was founded on the verge of a great civil war, a war that tested this nation's commitment and dedication to liberty, freedom and justice. Today, you and I stand at another important juncture of time where we are engaged in an ongoing battle, a battle testing whether humanity can long survive and continue to prosper as a sustainable collective. Today, the whole world and all its nations are tested on whether the future entails a selflessness which links all of humanity across space and time. A great enemy in this battle is “ourself”: our greed and glut, our apathy, our reliance on nonrenewable resources, our ignorance, our indifference, and our failure to consider our common future as one humanity. So it is time…

It is time for us to define ourselves by the dreams we have been afraid to dream. It is time to stop settling for a system incapable of setting its sights on anything more exciting than a seal of approval. It is time to commence doing what you would value on serious and fearless reflection. It is time for you to stand between devastation and our common future. It is time for you to give that full measure of devotion and strength the world needs and deserves from you and from our great institute of technology. It is time today.

Churchill said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” At this Commencement, on this day, start your life. Apply yourself to the public good. Engineer a tomorrow that is bright and sustainable. Make your life one long gift to humanity. And to close, with the words of JFK:
With a good conscience our only sure reward,
with history the final judge of our deeds,
let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

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