An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Spring at MIT is a time for new graduates, proud families, and red jackets—the unmistakable sign that alumni are back on campus for Tech Reunions. 

On Thursday, May 30, members of the 50th reunion class—wearing their new red jackets in accordance with MIT tradition—will lead the graduating class into Killian Court for the OneMIT Commencement Ceremony. Noubar Afeyan PhD ’87, cofounder of Moderna, will then give this year’s Commencement address. 

In honor of the occasion, Slice of MIT looked back at some of the words of wisdom shared at the graduation ceremonies this year’s reunion classes attended. What do you remember? We invite you to add your own Commencement reflections in the comments section below. 

1984 – Shirley Chisholm, Former US Representative 

“You do not need to march out barefooted into the snows of winter to combat all of the ills of this world. I am asking you to recognize and act upon basic humanitarian responsibilities.”

1989 – Paul E. Tsongas, Former Senator from Massachusetts

“We have endured our tradition of anti-intellectualism long enough. Let us be done with it. Let us celebrate intellect. Let us honor learning. Let us pay homage to the keen mind. Let us value those who think.”

1994 – Karim Aga Khan IV, Spiritual Leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims

“The great political and social changes around us are creating opportunities for service that promise to be deeply rewarding to persons with the engaged intelligence to be successful at important but difficult work.”

1999 – Ray Magliozzi ’72 and Tom Magliozzi ’58, Hosts of the National Public Radio Series "Car Talk"

“If you feel the urge to create and discover and to do something that will bring you fulfillment and happiness, do it now while you're you’re young. You will never have more energy or enthusiasm, hair, or brain cells than you have today.”

2004 – Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health

“You can't can’t make a contribution unless you're you’re connected to others and you’re able to connect to others.”

2009 – Deval Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

“When you innovate, remember that the innovations you will value the most will be the ones that improve the quality of life and the beauty of life for everyone.”

2014 – Ellen Kullman, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, DuPont

“As you take on new opportunities and challenges, expose them to light. Look at an idea, a choice, or a challenge in an unflinching manner. Be open to new ideas. Embrace new experiences. Embrace diversity of thought and people.” 

2019 – Michael Bloomberg, Former New York City Mayor 

“Graduates, we need your minds and your creativity to achieve a clean energy future. But that is not all. We need your voices. We need your votes. And we need you to help lead us where Washington will not. It may be a moonshot—but it’s the only shot we’ve got.”

At MIT, the tradition of having Commencement speakers dates back to 1880, the earliest year that MIT Commencement records exist at MIT’s Institute Archives and Special Collections. Explore the list of MIT Commencement speakers below or view an accessible PDF. 


Graphic shows list of Commencement speakers. See accessible pdf via link on page.