Vest urges grads to work with creativity, honesty


Following is the text of President Charles Vest's charge to the graduates at Commencement.

Thank you, Mr. Khan, for this generous and meaningful gift, and for all that you and your class have meant to this great institution.

The other day, one of our faculty members told me that she thought I was a model president. I was feeling pretty good about that until I looked up the definition of 'model' in the dictionary��������������������������� and learned that it means a small replica of the real thing!

Once again we are gathered in Killian Court to celebrate accomplishment, heritage and passage. We are surrounded by parents, family, friends, spouses and children who have supported and sustained you through the years. You will recognize them today by their smiles, brought about by their great pride in your accomplishments��������������������������� and, no doubt, by a sense of great relief to their bank accounts.

Let us then express our deep appreciation to all who have come to Cambridge today to join in your Commencement ceremony. Will you, the graduates, please rise, turn to your families and give them the applause they so richly deserve.

"Brevity is the sister of talent," said Chekhov. So it is good for me to be brief.

"Charge his mind with meaning that he never had," said the poet William Cowper. A tall order, but here is my charge to you.

Men and women of MIT:

Keep alive the joy, excitement, beauty, rationality and creativity of science and technology, deeply understood. Yet strive to understand their power and potential to provide the means for great good, but also to do evil.

Never cease to consider the context in which its powers are applied and its ability to shape the world for better or worse.

Strive to integrate the understandings of the humanist and artist with those of the scientist, engineer, manager, architect, planner and social scientist.

Ponder the unthinkable. Question the status quo. Live in the world as well as in your own nation. Dream of a better future, but contribute to the present. Share your talents. Commune with all people. Be steady friends and bold companions. Be honest in all that you do.

Take your education, your talent and your energy, and build us a nation and a world community that consider knowledge a gift to be shared, a healthy planet a place to be cherished, and human dignity and opportunity fundamental conditions to be enjoyed by all people.

Now that you are duly charged, let me tell you a story about MIT's former president, Jerry Wiesner. It is a true story. Some years ago, an MIT alumnus came up to our former president Jerry Wiesner. He said "Dr. Wiesner, do you remember me? You shook my hand as I came through the line at my graduation twenty years ago��������������������������� and you told me something that changed my entire life. It was the secret of my successful career." Jerry reluctantly admitted that he couldn't remember the moment, and asked what he had said.

The answer?

"President Wiesner, you said: 'Keep on moving��������������������������� keep on moving.'"

Men and women of MIT, I say to you now: keep on moving. And live your lives well. I wish you godspeed and the very best of good fortune.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 10, 1998.


Topics: Commencement, MIT presidency, Special events and guest speakers

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