March and April are so busy around here that even if Paris Hilton did come to MIT, we wouldn’t even have the time to find rotten tomatoes to throw at her. This past weekend was an extended holiday because of Patriot’s Day on Monday (can anyone say “Boston Marathon”? Congrats to Bryan for completing it! Bloggers have strong track record; Mitra and Sam ran it together in 2006). We also got Tuesday off because MIT is just that awesome (unfortunately, Harvard’s schedule is different so I still had class on Tuesday afternoon.)
I think every MIT student has an intense love-hate relationship with four-day weekends. On one hand, it’s four days off in a row! Imagine the possibilities! You can go home, enjoy Boston, catch up with friends, and hey, maybe even catch up on work and sleep. And yet, there’s never really time for the latter two options; Tuesday night is always so horrendously stressful and work-filled that you vow to never, ever procrastinate again. As a senior, I thought I had learned my lesson, and so I worked on Sunday, was in lab all day on Monday, and worked on Tuesday morning, too. Yet, somehow, I spent all of Tuesday night trying to write a chemistry lab report and listening to “It Sucks To Be Me” from Avenue Q.
But there were several very cool events that happened over the weekend, which I definitely do not regret going to. The first event was the Inaugural Millennium Campus Conference, hosted by MIT’s Global Poverty Initiative (http://gpi.mit.edu/). Forty MIT students got together to organize this amazing three-day conference, which was attended by hundreds of people around the country. The conference schedule is posted on their website and the keynote speakers included Senator John Edwards, Henrietta Fore, Paul Farmer, Ira Magaziner, Jeff Sachs, and a concert by John Legend in MIT’s very own ice rink! If you have an interest in global health, many of these names may be familiar to you.
I was only able to go to two of the keynote speeches. The first was by Paul Farmer, a physician and anthropologist at Harvard. He founded an organization called Partners in Health, which has made ground-breaking changes in the way that people think about delivering health care in developing countries. He spends much of his time in Haiti and Rwanda, and considers Haiti to be his home. Overall, he’s incredibly inspiring and seems like a genuinely nice person who is helping so many people with tuberculosis and AIDS. At the conference, his talk was called “This is not a hobby: taking global poverty seriously.” He told us about the technological abyss between the developed and developing world and two myths that are preventing us from doing more good.
The Sunday morning keynote speaker was Ira Magaziner, who is currently the chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS initiative. He served for six years as Senior Advisor to President Clinton for policy development, and before that he was a successful corporate strategist. Magaziner’s public policy experience is immense, and he talked about the Clinton Foundation and how they were able to bring the price of antiretroviral treatments down from over $1000 to about $100 (a 90% reduction) by changing the economics of drug production and partnering with many groups. Magaziner also talked about climate change and then gave us a set of five principles used to inform the Clinton Foundation (including, the need for respect for local leadership and the need to focus spending directly on people and programs). He ended with advice for us students, like “only unreasonable people accomplish big things because they piss people off.” That’s almost a direct quote =)
After hearing about those complex matters of life and death, it was a little strange to walk with my two friends to Fresh Pond, a reservoir about four miles northwest of MIT. It was a gorgeous day and gorgeous weekend in general. The picture below is actually of Spy Pond, which is ~1 mile away from Fresh Pond.
There were other exciting things that happened, but I’ve got to get back to making pretty pictures for my Senior Thesis… so I will leave you all for now.