Below is the text of Chancellor Melissa Nobles' Commencement remarks, as prepared for delivery today.
Thank you, President Kornbluth. And good morning, everyone!
To the Class of 2023, I know this isn’t just any regular good morning. Am I right about that?
That’s what I thought. No, this is one of those very good mornings – the kind that maybe seemed like it would never get here but, at long last, is upon us.
This is more than your morning though, Class of 2023. This is your moment. Take a second to look around historic Killian Court. Soak in this tremendous occasion so that in 10, 20, 30 years from now you will be able to recall with precision the extraordinary elation, the incredible sense of accomplishment, and the immense relief you feel right now.
Every single one of you has earned this moment. And now all that’s left to do is simple: Take it all in.
Now the same is true for the people whose love and encouragement; support and sacrifice; and unwavering belief in your promise and potential helped to propel you all this way.
Who am I referring to? Well, of course it’s your family and loved ones! To the Class of 2023 parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family members, and dear friends who are here in this Court or tuning in online from around the world, please accept my heartfelt thanks.
You have the entire MIT community’s deepest respect and admiration for getting our graduates to this moment. And we hope that you will also soak this in and hold on tight to your pride and exhilaration long after today’s ceremony concludes.
Before the ceremony can actually conclude, though, we need to hand over your diplomas like President Kornbluth said! I promise that I will try to keep this TL;DR so that we can do just that.
As I reflected on what insights or advice I could offer you in this moment, I turned to the three universal dimensions of your MIT journeys:
- The academic success you achieved;
- The personal and intellectual growth you experienced; and
- The strength of the communities and connections you built with one another.
First, in terms of academics, we all know the path to achieving an MIT degree is steep, demanding, and filled with late nights in the Stud 5 or Hayden and Barker Libraries. And the Class of 2023’s path was made all the more challenging due to the pandemic upheaval and uncertainty that intruded on much of your time here.
But, as evidenced by your caps and gowns, all of you made it through, didn’t you? And now that you have, isn’t the view from the top awesome? Isn’t it reassuring to know that, when you thought maybe you couldn’t keep going, you persevered – turning to others for help when you needed it and approaching your academic trek with patience, resilience, and a mindset of continuous growth.
Achieving incredible things in life is rarely easy – there’s never a clear path to the top. But what makes it all worth it is learning that you are often stronger than you imagined. And that if you ask for help, you’ll be amazed by the people who will be there to keep you steady and on course.
My second observation relates to your personal and intellectual growth. I think it’s a safe bet that during your time here, you took advantage of the myriad opportunities an MIT education offers to create, challenge, and discover your way into the kind of life lessons that give you a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. And I think it’s safe to assume many of these lessons took place outside of the classroom.
You uncovered new passions and embraced new experiences through the research you conducted, the internships you completed, the clubs you led, the sports you played, the states and countries you traveled to, and the time you spent just hanging out with friends in the Banana Lounge.
That’s part of the magic of this place that I’m certain you will look back on with fondness. I hope finding time to pursue new interests and set off on new adventures outside of the rhythms and obligations of day-to-day work remain priorities for you throughout your lives.
Finally, what was likely the most significant, memorable aspect of your time on this campus? Well, it was the people of course. Think all the way back to late August 2019, when you, the Class of 2023, were together for the first time in Kresge for orientation. Maybe you didn’t know how to navigate the tunnels yet. You couldn’t have envisioned what Senior Sunset or Senior Ball would be like. And you probably didn’t know that you had truly found paradise. But you did know you were about to find your community.
I would venture a guess that, in the years since, the human connections you created – whether in your residence halls or FSILGs; student organizations or teams; UROPs or FPOPs; departments or study groups – shaped your MIT experience the most.
No matter what, you showed up for one another here. And that doesn’t have to change as you each make your way in the world. The lifelong friends you found on this campus are the people who I know will continue to be sources of encouragement, strength, and inspiration.
I urge you to take that sense of belonging with you wherever you go next. Never forget just how much purposeful connection can impact and sustain you. And as you develop new friendships and communities, please know that you will always have the ones you created here to return to.
With these lessons and experiences in hand (and also in your minds and hearts), we send you out into the world. As your Chancellor, I am certain that you can and that you will bring all of your passion and intellect to discovering, advancing knowledge, creating, advocating, and leading – while also cultivating personal and professional lives that are rich in meaning, connection, and humanity.
How can I be so sure? Because what you have accomplished over the past four years is tremendous. And it’s those accomplishments combined with the magnificent promise your young futures hold that make this more than just any regular morning.
So, for all that you have achieved, contributed, and experienced at MIT – and for all that you aspire to be in your next chapters – we honor and congratulate you. And we wish you all the best on the road ahead.
Thank you, and congratulations Class of 2023!