Michael Bloomberg, the successful entrepreneur and three-term mayor of New York City who has become one of the nation’s most prominent philanthropists and fearless voices on gun violence, climate change, public health, and other issues, will deliver the address at MIT’s 2019 Commencement exercises on Friday, June 7.
Bloomberg founded what is now Bloomberg LP as a one-room startup in 1981, revolutionizing the financial world and helping level the playing field for smaller firms. Bloomberg also built a “social network” and “cloud” for business and finance professionals before anyone had heard of either phrase. The company has grown to nearly 20,000 employees in more than 120 countries.
Bloomberg took on a new challenge in 2001, running for mayor of New York and winning election just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As mayor, his innovation-driven approach turned around the city’s public schools; sparked economic growth and job creation; and supported entrepreneurship, small businesses, and key industries including new media, film and television, the life sciences, technology, and tourism. Actions rooted in Bloomberg’s passion for public health increased life expectancy by 36 months during his term as mayor, while his efforts to combat poverty and climate change led to a 25 percent reduction in welfare rolls and a 19 percent reduction in the city’s carbon footprint.
As chair of the C40 Climate Leadership Group from 2010 to 2013, Bloomberg focused international attention on cities’ leading role in combating climate change. He currently serves as the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, and in 2017, with California Governor Jerry Brown, launched America’s Pledge on climate change, a new initiative to compile and quantify the actions of states, cities, and businesses in the United States to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Bloomberg co-authored the 2017 bestselling book “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet” with Carl Pope.
In 2016 Bloomberg accepted World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan’s invitation to serve as the WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Bloomberg is helping to advance the WHO’s push to reduce premature NCD deaths by one-third by 2030 and to halve the number of road deaths and injuries by 2020. His own philanthropic investments in public health include a $100 million commitment to eradicate polio, a $1 billion initiative to reduce global tobacco use, and programs to tackle obesity, road safety, maternal health and drowning.
“Michael Bloomberg has shown extraordinary leadership in many areas that matter deeply to our community — from climate action to educational access to human health to the arts,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “Although perhaps most associated with the City of New York, Mr. Bloomberg is Boston-born and Medford-raised. We look forward to welcoming him home to deliver what I know will be an inspiring charge to the Class of 2019.”
Since leaving City Hall, Bloomberg has returned to Bloomberg LP and devoted more energy to philanthropy: To date, he has donated more than $6.4 billion to a wide variety of efforts that transform lives every day. Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies is noted for its data-driven approach to fostering global change, rooted in Bloomberg’s experiences as an entrepreneur and mayor. Its five areas of focus are public health, the arts, the environment, education, and government innovation.
“I'm honored to accept MIT's invitation to address the Class of 2019,” Bloomberg says. “Generations of MIT graduates have changed the world for the better, in every field. And as an engineer who started a tech company in the early days of the computer age, I’m looking forward to addressing this year's graduates as they begin their journeys.”
Bloomberg earned a BS in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964, paying his tuition by taking out loans and working as a parking lot attendant. He went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1966. He served as chairman of the Johns Hopkins board of trustees from 1996 to 2001, and in 2001, the university renamed its School of Hygiene and Public Health in his honor, recognizing Bloomberg’s unprecedented commitment of energy to the field of global public health. The official name of the school — the largest public health facility in the U.S. — became the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Last month, Bloomberg announced a $1.8 billion gift to support need-blind undergraduate admissions at Johns Hopkins. “Denying students entry to a college based on their ability to pay undermines equal opportunity,” he wrote in The New York Times. “It perpetuates intergenerational poverty. And it strikes at the heart of the American dream: the idea that every person, from every community, has the chance to rise based on merit.”
“We are thrilled to have Michael Bloomberg as our Commencement speaker,” says Trevor McMichael, president of MIT’s Class of 2019. “His entrepreneurial success and extensive philanthropic work are just a couple of qualities that make him an excellent selection. Undoubtedly, Michael Bloomberg’s words will inspire us as we begin our journeys beyond MIT.”
“We are extremely excited to have Michael Bloomberg join us at the MIT 2019 Commencement,” says Undergraduate Association President Alexa Martin. “He has had global impact on environmental challenges, and has been a vocal advocate for public health initiatives and solutions for the improvement of education. Mr. Bloomberg’s entrepreneurial leadership and global activism will inspire our graduates as they seek to change the world.”
“We are interested to hear Michael Bloomberg speak,” says Graduate Student Council President Peter Su. “His record in philanthropy, politics, and entrepreneurship makes him an apt choice for MIT's Commencement.”
Bloomberg joins a list of notable recent MIT Commencement speakers, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (2018); Apple CEO Tim Cook (2017); actor and filmmaker Matt Damon (2016); U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith ’86 SM ’88 (2015); and DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman (2014).
“I am thrilled that Michael Bloomberg has accepted MIT’s invitation to serve as this year’s Commencement speaker,” says Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson, the longstanding chair of MIT’s Commencement Committee. “His commitment to tackling the challenges of climate change and the environmental impact of energy use, to making education more widely accessible, and to fostering innovation and leadership — especially among public sector leaders — is inspiring. These are all themes that are of great importance to our graduates, and I am sure his remarks will be an inspiration to them.”