It was a year with a hurricane up front and a deluge at the end. I asked a lot of graduating students if the ceremony should have been moved inside. One student, a typical one, said with steel in his eye, “Are you kidding, it's was part of the MIT experience.” I saw the point. After surviving humiliating exams, endless problem sets, projects that wouldn't get done, and countless all nighters, a downpour on commencement just added a bit of zest.
Anyway, President Reif's speech was not to be missed. He was cosmic, talking about the whole of life, not just the next few years. He noted that it is a great privilege to be at MIT, not a right, and that with privilege comes the obligation to do something meaningful with the experience:
I am certain that, no matter what I say, you will take on important problems. I am certain that each of you will, in your own way, honor the great privilege we all share in being here.
And I am certain you will use what you have learned—in your labs and classrooms, in your living groups, on the playing fields, in your activities, and in late-night conversations with friends—I am certain you will use what you have learned here to make the world a better place.Stirring words, I think. They make me want to stay up late tonight, as I generally do, trying to develop a computational account of human intelligence, which I think will eventually make the world a better place.