A Letter to the Class of 2011
Greetings to you, the graduates and your families!
We share with the thousands of families gathered on the oval for MIT’s 2011 commencement, the excitement, pride, and promise of our new graduates. During the past four years you have been under the tutelage of our faculty colleagues, and your future careers and contributions to society are the proudest product of our academic labors.
At the same time, we are anxious about the world you are moving into: a depressed and uncertain economy; a political environment in which the major institutions supporting science and technology in our nation are having their budgets cut back; states disinvesting in public education and teachers; and continuing foreign wars.
MIT faculty do not have magic answers or prescriptions to these problems. Most of us do, however, believe that investment in new knowledge of the natural and engineered worlds is invaluable; that the application of advances in science and technology to pressing social problems is among the most effective means of raising the human standard of living; and that such progress depends on an educated and dedicated scientific and technical workforce. We also know a great deal about the ills that afflict human populations, including disease, lack of clean water and air, the burdens of poverty, and the destructiveness of large-scale war. We know that in the world of the twenty-first century there can be no true democracy without an electorate that can reason analytically, and is scientifically, historically, and technologically literate. We also know that science and technology must be used wisely, taking human needs and history into account.
We note with pride the active interest that many of you have taken in mitigating and reversing the consequences of climate change. The desire to improve the Earth and the well being of its inhabitants is one of the pillars of an MIT education. In this tradition, the adjoining column has an account of a forum on MIT faculty and nuclear arms reduction, “Can Nuclear Disarmament Become a Reality?” sponsored by our Faculty Newsletter in May. The forum commemorated the MIT faculty who, following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, played leading roles in the subsequent effort to prevent the further use of nuclear weapons, by controlling and limiting their development and spread. Despite progress, thousands of nuclear weapons are still on hair-trigger alert around the world, reducing our security through their possible accidental use, and draining productive economic resources.
We are deeply disturbed by the predominance of military solutions to settle conflicts, with the loss of lives and the diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to develop our own and other societies.
Redirection of these fiscal resources into alternative energy programs, new approaches to diagnosing and treating diseases, improved education, and continued expansion of telecommunication networks and technologies, offers enormous prospects for concrete advances in our economy and general standards of living.
Sharing these advances with other countries could make the world more secure for all. These are the kinds of jobs that we hope many of you will be doing in the future.
The resolution of conflicts and the reduction of nuclear arsenals would release resources needed to permit you and our future graduates to put your enormous talents, good will, and learning to use, making a better world for all of us. We hope that you, the current graduates, will be able to carry on our work in the years to come, improving on the world we have left you.
On behalf of the entire faculty, we wish you the strength and commitment for these tasks. We know that you have the skill and training. May you have good luck as well.