A Letter to the Class of 2012
Greetings to you, the graduates and your families!
We share with the thousands of families gathered for Commencement, the excitement, pride, and promise in our new MIT 2012 graduates. During the past four years you have been instructed, educated, and guided by our faculty; you are now launching your own careers and your contributions to our society will be the proudest product of our academic labors.
At the same time, we are anxious about the world you are moving into: a dangerously volatile ecological environment; 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 believe that in the world of the twenty-first century there can be no true democracy without an electorate that is scientifically, historically, and technologically literate, that can reason analytically and face the facts.
We believe that science and technology must be used wisely, taking human needs and history into account.
We have seen with pride the active interest that many of you have taken in mitigating and reversing the consequences of climate change, your desire to improve the Earth and the well-being of its inhabitants; that is one of the pillars of an MIT education.
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 ours and others’ societies. Despite disarmament 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. Redirection of these fiscal resources into alternative energy programs, new approaches to diagnosing and treating diseases, improved education for our young, 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.
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.