Anticipating the Friday arrival of President Barack Obama at MIT, members of the MIT community noted both the significance of the visit and the gravity of its purpose.
Hundreds of visitors including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick were expected to be present at noon in Kresge Auditorium for President Obama's remarks on "American leadership in clean energy." The talk comes as Congress gears up for hearings on clean energy legislation and as negotiators from around the world prepare for December's U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen.
Prior to speaking in Kresge, the president was due to tour a research lab on campus.
Among those planning to watch the president in Kresge was Forgan McIntosh, co-president of the MIT Energy Club and an MIT Sloan School of Management MBA student. McIntosh said he was frustrated that the battle over health care reform had crowded out the public debate over energy policy, and said he was looking to Obama's speech to jump-start progress on redefining the government's role in the energy sector and Washington's leadership position in the global race for clean energy competitiveness.
"I hope Obama's speech signals a recommitment by the White House to address energy issues on a first-priority basis," he said.
Community members said MIT was a logical choice for Obama's remarks on clean energy. Led by the MIT Energy Initiative, faculty, students and staff researchers are developing transformative technologies that include an array of advanced solar pathways and key enablers for renewable energy such as storage. MITEI Director Ernie Moniz noted that his initiative also supports innovative projects for conventional energy systems — nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration, for example — to lower carbon emissions and mitigate climate change.
"Through his support for clean energy science, technology, and innovation, the energy focus of the stimulus package, and critically important enhanced support for energy research and development, the President has expanded our energy vision and is focused on creating the conditions for energy innovation to flourish across the country — at a faster pace, at large scale," said Moniz.
Governor Patrick said MIT was "the perfect place" for the President to expand on his vision for the country's clean-energy future.
"I am so pleased that President Obama chose Massachusetts, and this great university, as the place to deliver a major message on clean energy," he said. "In the Commonwealth, we are hard at work aligning energy and environmental regulations, making energy efficiency the fuel of first choice, setting a price on carbon emissions, and accelerating the use of renewable power."
MIT President Susan Hockfield expressed gratitude on behalf of the MIT community for the effectiveness President Obama and Governor Patrick had shown in championing the cause of clean energy.
"At MIT, we share President Obama's conviction that clean energy is the defining challenge of this century — and we share his vision that America can return to economic growth, create jobs and mitigate climate change by investing in clean energy research," she said. "That the President has come to MIT to make a major statement about America's potential to lead in clean energy stands as a tribute to MIT's faculty and students, who are working together through the MIT Energy Initiative to invent a sustainable energy future."
As is common with Presidential visits, seating for the address in Kresge Auditorium will be extraordinarily limited and will be by invitation only. The tickets MIT has for the event will be allocated in such a way as to be broadly representative of the Institute — and weighted to favor students.