Speeches

“Science, math and engineering can give you the exhilarating power to become not mere spectators or consumers, but the active explorers, makers and doers who will help invent the future.”                 - Susan Hockfield

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September 25, 2016
When I heard the news that the University of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, would be NYU’s next president, my first thought was, “Terrific choice!”  My second thought, reflecting on NYU’s increasing excellence and prominence under John Sexton’s leadership, was, “I sure hope he has a pair of really big shoes!”  And, only to briefly summarize my third through 150th thoughts:  “NYU’s...
March 06, 2014
As we remember those who have left us, their faces emerge from our memory, recalling event after event and evoking wave after wave of emotion.  For me, two faces of Chuck Vest bound into view:  The first, his twinkling eyes over his boyish grin as he reports yet another amazing observation, “Did you know that more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children?” ...
May 13, 2013
It’s a great privilege to serve as a Science Envoy for the United States focused on Turkey as this country accelerates towards a knowledge-based, high-skills economy.  Already on this short trip I’ve encountered dozens of far-sighted projects and programs designed to propel Turkey toward its inspiring ambition to become a top 10 global economy by 2023.  It is abundantly clear that you recognize...
February 16, 2013
AAAS Fellows were instituted in the 1870s, to create a more prestigious category of "fellows" for members "professionally engaged in science" or those who "by their labors aided in advancing science."  That’s you! Congratulations on your election:  You join a society of extraordinary scientists and scholars, the AAAS elite.  Many of you, quite appropriately will find this honor of particular...
June 08, 2012
Welcome all: graduates and alumni, friends and family. Gathered here in Killian Court, we feel the deep currents of history. The majestic architecture of the Main Group recalls our MIT predecessors who, in 1916, erected these buildings. In their grandeur, these buildings expressed a vision and an ambition for the technological century that was about to unfold. And in the names carved above us,...
May 16, 2012
Today is a hugely exciting day for MIT. I cannot imagine anyone better prepared for the job of MIT’s president than Rafael Reif. Nor can I imagine anyone better suited to serve this community in this moment. Our president-elect is well known to many in the MIT community, but not to all. So, for those who have not had the privilege of working with Rafael, I want to give you a sense of the...
May 02, 2012
MIT is extremely excited to continue a long history of collaboration by joining with Harvard in this new partnership, a shared expedition to explore the frontiers of digital education. What we will discover together will help us do what we do, better: to more effectively and more creatively increase the vitality of our institutions, and, at the same time, to increase educational opportunities for...
February 29, 2012
Almost two weeks ago, I announced that I would be stepping down later this year as president of MIT. That decision has led me to reflect a bit on the beginning of my service at MIT, more than seven years ago, and one memory stands out from all the rest: the clear, unambiguous message from the Institute’s entire community that it was time for MIT to step up and do something serious about energy....
February 09, 2012
Let me begin this morning with a very warm thank-you to the MIT Gospel Choir for their glorious music. Shamarah Hernandez and Derek Ham, thank youfor your inspiring words and your selfless contributions to the MIT community – and thank you, in advance, for the important ways you will no doubt serve the world. I also want to thank our hosts, the Committee on Race and Diversity, for bringing us...
February 07, 2012
As I begin, I feel compelled to confess the glaringly obvious: I am not any kind of historian. I am a neuroscientist by training, but MIT’s Sesquicentennial celebrations last year deputized me as one of our official storytellers, so I have become a kind of accidental, entirely amateur historian – a dangerous pursuit. With that caveat, I very much look forward to your questions later on, and I am...
November 09, 2011
Let me start the evening off by talking a bit about America's innovation economy – how it emerged, how it's working, and some steps we can take to strengthen it. As I step into this discussion of the innovation economy, I should acknowledge the obvious: I am neither an entrepreneur nor an economist. I have no high-tech innovations up my sleeve, and bringing ideas on innovation to Silicon Valley...
July 15, 2011
In seeking a solution to America's current economic quandary, it would be hard to think of any group closer to the action than the nation's governors: You carry an extraordinary burden of leadership, both in addressing the human suffering and budget impacts of the lingering global downturn, and in trying to chart a course to a brighter economic future for your states, so I join you today with a...
June 03, 2011
Those of you graduating today will receive many different degrees in a wide range of disciplines. But, even so, you are united, as our Sesquicentennial class. The MIT150 celebrations that began 148 days ago have described the earliest dreams of our founding and produced provocative, sometimes even luminous, visions of the future. We heard Nobel Laureate-studded panels discuss the frontiers of...
April 10, 2011
We gather today to celebrate MIT's founding 150 years ago. However, I will focus my comments on our responsibilities for the next 150 years, because we come together at a precarious time for our nation and for the world: A time when the world increasingly seeks – and suffers for the lack of – safe, sustainable, clean energy, and when the climate speaks to us through rising seas and retreating...
March 04, 2011
The dedication of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, our newest hotbed of research and education innovation, falls right in the midst of 150 days of events that celebrate MIT's first 150 years. In preparing for our Sesquicentennial, we have been delving into MIT's past to find fuel for the future. In 1861, when William Barton Rogers founded MIT, he aimed to make science...
February 09, 2011
Let me begin with a welcome to everyone, and a warm thank you to the MIT Gospel Choir and to the Ettienne Group for the glorious music, and to Khalea Robinson and Pierre Fuller for their truly inspiring words.  We often say how much the intelligence and ambition of our students inspires us, but every year, at this event I feel infinitely proud to play a role, no matter how minor, in helping...
September 13, 2010
Let me start by thanking the Brookings Institution for hosting this important conversation. I also want to thank Jim Simons and Math for America for bringing us together, and for Jim's phenomenal leadership in developing inspired and informed math teachers. And I know we will all miss Representative Bart Gordon, who has been a powerful force for the good through his work in Congress. Finally, I...
August 29, 2010
Welcome to the MIT Class of 2014! I also offer a very warm welcome to all of your families and friends who have come to help you settle into your new home here at MIT. After the long months of the admissions process – more competitive than ever this year – you, our new MIT freshmen, may feel that you are lucky to be here. But let me state very clearly that we are lucky to have you join us. You...
June 23, 2010
President Zhang, thank you for your gracious introduction and for welcoming us to the campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I want to particularly acknowledge Madame Ma, Chairperson of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Council, whom we were deeply honored to host at our campus in Cambridge just nine days ago. We look forward to a future of productive collaborations. As student and faculty...
June 04, 2010
Today's graduates of MIT: This day is, truly, for you. Here, in the stately embrace of Killian Court, we gather to celebrate your success. You have distinguished yourselves in courses of study that stand among the most demanding in the world. For all that you have accomplished, we congratulate you. In the midst of celebrating your achievements, our joy would be incomplete if we did not recognize...
March 22, 2010
Living amid so many treasures of the past, one great gift from Greece to the world has been the ability to take the long view, to understand that there is more to the human story than the events of the present, however overwhelming they may seem. This is surely a moment of great economic difficulty and political turmoil for many nations of the world. We all share the pressing concerns of the...
February 10, 2010
Good morning! I cannot imagine a better way to greet the new day than soaring on the wings of the MIT Gospel Choir and on the notes of Jermaine Tulloch. Thank you very much for waking us all up to the day and its great potential. I also want to thank Dylon Rockwell and Zenzile Brooks; I am so proud of both of you. Dylon, you called out to all of us that our motto, Mens et Manus, urges us to...
August 30, 2009
Welcome MIT class of 2013! I extend the warmest possible welcome, also, to the families and friends of our new MIT students, who have traveled here to help launch their new intellectual adventure. This gathering to start the year is known as “convocation,” from the Latin for “calling together.” As you’ll soon discover, however, MIT’s culture is highly distributed, a vibrant community of...
June 05, 2009
I share something important with the undergraduate Class of 2009: we were freshmen together. You started your first full academic year at MIT when I started mine. Over these four years, we have all learned lessons, great and small, starting with the mysterious way we number our buildings and our courses, the numerical “secret handshake” of the MIT family. While you mastered the art of the problem...
April 30, 2009
I’m always delighted to speak at the AAAS, but particularly so to join you today, since we have something so important to celebrate. As you probably know, on Monday President Obama spoke at the National Academy of Sciences. In his speech he offered an endorsement of the value of science and engineering so broad, detailed and unwavering that it simply can’t be dismissed as rhetoric. Let me read...
March 23, 2009
As President of MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I bring a perspective from America’s research scientists and engineers. We’re focusing today on clean energy and the truly historic investment in clean energy research, development and technology that President Obama is advocating for the nation. Through the Stimulus bill, President Obama and Congress made a major commitment to new...
February 05, 2009
Good morning, and welcome to a beautiful new day. On MIT’s annual calendar, this celebration of Dr. King’s legacy continues to be an important landmark and a personal inspiration for each of us to help realize his ideals. I want to express my thanks and admiration to Matt Gethers [’09] and Joy Johnson [G] for their presentations and for the extraordinary standard they set as members of this...
December 03, 2008
We come together at a time of acute contradictions: a time of deep concern about the global economic scene, but also a moment full of the hopeful energy of a new administration. Those of us involved with the life sciences and their federal funding are experiencing a parallel contradiction: We have, and we should have, grave concerns about future funding after years of stagnant research budgets....
November 18, 2008
I am delighted to welcome MIT’s student, staff and faculty leaders to the Diversity Leadership Congress. I am very grateful that you’ve made this Congress a focus and a priority. I also want to add a particular welcome to those of you participating via webcast. As you will hear, the success of our efforts depends on the broadest kind of shared leadership, so we are very pleased to have all of you...
September 17, 2008
All of us on this panel are here because we believe that America’s future depends on its ability to spark an energy revolution. To power such innovation, our nation urgently needs to make a broad, coordinated commitment to energy research – a commitment of historic proportions – led by aggressive federal funding for basic energy research. In the search for new energy answers, the scope of the...
September 16, 2008
It’s hard to imagine a group more central to the urgent question of how to transform our energy landscape, and I’m pleased to join you in this vital conversation. Given the topic of your conference, “Investment Opportunities in Clean Energy Businesses,” it may seem odd that a university president was asked to speak. But as many of you may know, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is...
September 10, 2008
Thank you, Chairman Markey, Congressman Sensenbrenner and Members of the Committee. On behalf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I am grateful for this chance to highlight the overwhelming importance of funding basic energy research. As you know, since before World War II, MIT has served the nation as an honest broker on complex technical issues, and as a source of breakthrough...
August 24, 2008
Good morning, and welcome, MIT class of 2012. Welcome also to your friends and family who have come to see you off, as you begin your MIT adventure. Let me start by explaining the purpose of this Convocation. From the Latin, ”Convocation” means, literally, a “calling together.” Given the uncontainable energy of any group of 1,000 MIT students, we don’t get to call you together very often. Frankly...
June 06, 2008
Graduates of MIT: This day is for you. Here, in the stately embrace of Killian Court, we gather to celebrate your success. You have distinguished yourselves in courses of study that stand among the most demanding in the world. For all that you have accomplished, you have our deepest respect. Of course, each of you has had a little help along the way. None of you would be here this morning...
February 21, 2008
Thank you, Tarick Walton, for that magnificent performance of the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We all carry his phrases around in our heads, and they thread through the background of our thoughts all the time. But hearing them spoken aloud, passionately sung out to us, reawakens their power. To hear them transports us to an absolutely riveting moment in American history. But...
February 14, 2008
When I first learned the theme for this year’s AAAS meeting, “Science and Technology in the Global Age,” within about a minute I thought of a dozen important dimensions I could explore. I could have chosen a David Letterman approach – the Top Ten Ways Science and Technology Will Transform Our World, starting with number 10, the new line of iPods: the Pico and the Femto. Instead, however, I am...
February 04, 2008
At the February 4 annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in Washington, D.C., President Hockfield discussed the value of higher education in a speech to more than 400 college and university leaders. As many of you may have noticed, yesterday in Phoenix, a certain contest held the attention of much of the nation. This contest of athletic prowess...
November 20, 2007
I am honored to be here with the members of the Confederation of Indian Industries. As leaders of arguably the most dynamic and inspiring economy in the world, you are in many ways writing the story of the future, and it’s a privilege to talk with you. The MIT delegation has been in India since Sunday, and we have been overwhelmed by the warmth of our welcome. It’s the kind of greeting one would...
August 26, 2007
Good morning, and welcome, MIT class of 2011. And welcome also to the families and friends who have come to help launch a new chapter in our students’ lives. Each academic year begins with the excitement of formally welcoming our new students into the MIT community at this Freshman Convocation. Convocation – a calling together – is a chance to offer words of introduction, and also some – but I...
June 08, 2007
I want to speak to those of you graduating today about your path here at MIT and the path that leads from MIT into the world. Of course, before you arrived at MIT, each ofyou had already demonstrated significant talents – that is why we invited you to join our community. Once you arrived here you took up MIT's challenges, and – working, I am certain, harder than you ever have before – you have...
February 16, 2007
This past January 15, on the national day of celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King, part of my own, personal reflection for the day was to reread the words of Dr. King in his now iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. The speech never fails to move me, as it did when I first heard it, and as it has moved and inspired millions of others in the nearly 45 years since it was delivered on the steps...
December 13, 2006
The Energy Challenge Welcome to MIT, and to this first-ever Massachusetts Energy Summit. MIT is delighted to partner with Ranch Kimball and the Commonwealth’s Department of Economic Development, to host this historic event. I am particularly delighted that Governor-Elect Deval L. Patrick will be joining us later in the morning. And I am also pleased to welcome, from the City of Cambridge, City...
August 27, 2006
Good morning. Welcome, families. Welcome, friends. And most of all, welcome, members of the Class of 2010! It is a great privilege to greet you at the beginning of your time at MIT, at this Freshman Convocation. Convocation is a gathering to welcome you into the MIT community – to give you some words of introduction, and also some – but I hope not too many – words of advice. I am joined by some...
August 08, 2006
I have spent much of my academic career in a medical-school environment, and that experience has left me with a deep appreciation for the enormous contributions modern pharmaceuticals have made to human health and wellbeing. Since coming to MIT, I have made it one of my personal priorities to accelerate our institution's work at the convergence of the life sciences and engineering, and to further...
June 09, 2006
You, our graduates, are exceptional individuals. Even before you arrived at MIT, you had already demonstrated your great talents, and your willingness to work hard. But at MIT we raise the bar for ourselves and for one another. We challenge every member of our community to reach farther and to dream larger than ever before. Fortunately, along with MIT’s challenge come its inspiring teachers and...
May 03, 2006
I am pleased to welcome you to the MIT Energy Forum. This is an important day for MIT. Today, in the culmination of a year’s work, the Energy Research Council will outline how MIT can offer leadership on one of the most urgent challenges of our time: finding clean, affordable energy to power up the developed and the developing world. Of course, many of MIT's faculty and students are already at...
April 28, 2006
Innovation and Its Organization I would like to begin with an insight from one of MIT's most distinguished economists, Robert Solow. Professor Solow was the first of the growth economists, challenging the static model of classical economics and its explanation of economic growth as derived from capital supply and labor supply. He found – and perhaps this was not surprising from someone working...
March 20, 2006
This testimony appears as submitted to the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education in advance of its Boston field hearing on March 20, 2006. As President Hockfield noted at the hearing itself, "Since the end of World War II, American higher education has increasingly become available to those with the ability and ambition to draw on this valuable resource. At its...
February 09, 2006
As we meet this morning, it is hard not to be reminded of the passing, just last week, of Coretta Scott King. Some of you here today will remember her speaking at MIT in 1994 at our 20th Martin Luther King Celebration. MIT was honored, and I am sure inspired, by her presence and her observations on that occasion. In one sense, Mrs. King’s passing marks the end of an era and compels us to reflect...
January 15, 2006
Today, universities all over the world face great challenges. Like businesses and governments, we must meet the needs of a new, global age. While universities must adapt to the times and be alert to new opportunities, I do not believe we should forsake our longstanding mission. As research institutions, universities seek to advance knowledge for the benefit of society, and as teaching...

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