President Hockfield's Charge to the Graduates

Friday, June 9, 2006
Delivered at MIT's 140th Commencement

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 guides: a brilliant faculty and, just as important, brilliant students.

Every part of the Institute – from lecture hall to residence hall, from problem sets to athletics, from the Public Service Center to the music practice rooms – has provided opportunities for your education: an education that embraces not just the subjects you have studied, but the lessons of how to work together for the common good and – probably the most important thing of all – how to live a life of learning. You will draw on all these lessons after you leave here, because the world looks to you – the graduates of MIT – to take the lead in answering its most pressing challenges. And at times in the years ahead when a choice of direction presents itself, I hope you will ask yourselves, “Where can I do the most good? How can I make the greatest difference in the world?”

During your years here, your passion and ideas have already changed the world. You have tutored students in the Cambridge Public Schools. You have brought your design and planning expertise to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina. You have launched promising start-up ventures. And you have participated in path-breaking research with faculty all across the Institute.

In the years ahead, you will help the world meet its need for sustainable energy. You will use the converging tools of the life sciences and engineering to cure, and even to prevent, disease. You will develop ways to accommodate urban growth without urban sprawl. You will bring the benefits of economic growth to developing economies. And you will answer fundamental questions about nature and society.

And even as you take up the world’s challenges, you will remain part of this community. At the close of this morning’s ceremony, Scott Marks, the President of the Alumni Association, will formally welcome you into the Association’s membership. We hope that even after you leave campus your lives will be enriched by an ongoing connection to the Institute.

It is my fervent hope that you will transmit the values that define this community to the other communities you will now join. I hope that you will see leadership as an opportunity to serve the common good. That you will make integrity the touchstone of your judgments. That you will exemplify the pursuit of truth and an unwavering drive for excellence. And that you will continue to demonstrate the value of good, old-fashioned hard work.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially: I ask you to inspire your own generation and the generations to come with a renewed sense of possibility and optimism for the future. Here at MIT, we see up close the myriad ways in which science and technology promise to benefit humankind. If we are to realize that promise, we need to kindle in others the same love and passion for truth and discovery, for creativity and problem-solving, that brought us all here. I hope that each of you will embrace this challenge as your own. I would not set you this charge if I did not think you could meet it. I have tremendous faith in you. Your intelligence, dedication, and creativity have inspired us during your time here. And I know that in the years to come you will do even more – and surprise and delight us with your further achievements.

For your accomplishments on this campus, I offer my congratulations, graduates of MIT!