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The Class of 2018 Graduates from MIT by Chris Peterson SM '13

Today, the Class of 2018 graduates from MIT.

 

 

 

 

As I wrote when we admitted them:

These 1419 students are truly exceptional. The admitted Class of 2018 includes mathematicians and marksmen and metallurgists; coders and carpenters and cosplayers; Texans and Tennesseans and Turkmen. Collectively, they represent all 50 states, more than 50 countries, and more than 1000 high schools; together, they constitute an incredible community, each contributing a set of rare skills and perspectives while holding in common the highest caliber of character, conscientiousness, and, of course, remarkable intelligence.

 



a younger me, with some members of the Class of 2018 @ their CPW
 

Tomorrow, they will walk down Mass Ave, along Memorial Drive, and into Killian Court, where they will be honored by speakers, recognized by faculty, and handed a well-deserved diploma.


I helped select the Class of 2018 when I first returned to admissions from graduate school. It was a difficult and uncertain time for me, and for MIT; during their first year, several members of the MIT community died unexpectedly, including two members of their class. It was, I think, the hardest year for the MIT community in my career, and I remember how scary and surreal it was for everyone here, and for the new class perhaps most of all. As I wrote that next spring to the Class of 2015:

 

i wrote this to the students in cms.400 this past spring, but it really holds true for all of you:

“MIT is a hard place, made all the harder for the resonant, omnipresent, pounding self-consciousness of how hard it is. This semester more than most. At MIT in general, and this semester specifically, you have all been through an experience that has marked you deeply, even as you endured it.

The etymology of the word ‘endure’ traces to a 1382 English translation of Acts 19:9: “Summe weren endurid, or maad hard.” But the word has two distinct meanings: to be made callous and indifferent, or to become sturdy, robust, strengthened. As a grad student (and in the immediate afterward), I struggled, not always successfully, to resist the pull of the former in favor of the latter. Whether you graduate in a few weeks, or in a few years, I hope that you can do that too.”

i don’t sleep with my grad rat on. one reason is so that, when i get up every morning, and get ready to go out into the world, the small ritual of slipping it on reminds me to be my best person: the most intelligent, rigorous, enduring, yes, but also the most humane, the most empathetic, the person most worthy of the privileges and obligations that a place like MIT confers and also a place like MIT needs. because the rest of the world is in desperate need of people who are all of those things: intelligent *and* kind, hardworking *and* humane, capable *and* considerate, etc. the ring is not necessary for this kind of reflection, of course, but i have personally found it a useful shibboleth. when you go to turn your rat around today, please, take a moment, just a moment, to think about how you will make the world suck a little less when you’re out there in it. because that’s really all any of us can do on a day to day basis: try to make the world suck a little less.

in the amber spyglass, will and lyra are told:

“And if you help everyone else in your worlds to do that, by helping them to learn and understand about themselves and each other and the way everything works, and by showing them how to be kind instead of cruel, and patient instead of hasty, and cheerful instead of surly, and above all how to keep their minds open and free and curious…” then tldr the world will be ultimately OK, or as OK as it can be, and this is what you can do. and this isn’t mawkish or or maudlin or sentimental because it is so painfully and incredibly true.

please know that i am more grateful than i can say for having the chance to know you, and more hopeful for the world that you are all about to enter.

I wrote this to the Class of 2015, but also with the Class of 2018 in mind, because they were firsts, for me, in different ways, and because they arrived and departed from MIT under such difficult conditions.

And yet: they did not yield to them. Members of the Class of 2018 have led the way on some of the most important reforms to the MIT community in generations, including wellness initiatives (like Tell Me About Your Day), social justice (like the Black Student Union recommendations), and civic engagement (like building new voter registration apps with Sandbox funding). More recently, they protested to protect their classmates and cofounded a group to improve the MIT community’s awareness of socioeconomic inequality.They are one of the most dynamic and impactful classes I have ever seen, as full of heart as they are capable of mind and hand. They may not feel this way now, but they have done more for MIT than MIT could ever do for them. We didn’t deserve them, but I am glad we had them.

I will miss the Class of 2018 dreadfully. But MIT has had them for long enough. Now they belong to the world, and the world will be better for them.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018. May the wind be ever at your backs, and coconuts ever in your tubes.

 


 

 


The commencement stage at dawn

 

flowers of MIT

 

waiting for the graduates

Graduation cap for Rima D. ’18

50th anniversary class in their iconic red coats

 

Class and commencement marshals

Faculty arriving to the dias

 

Izzy and Mikael with coordinating accessories

 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg addresses the graduates.

From left: Vice-Chancellor Ian Waitz, Chairman of the Corporation Bob Millard, UA President Sarah Melvin, Class President Colin Webb, and a faculty member. 

Class of 2018 President Colin Webb addresses his classmates.

Colin Webb presents President Reif with the senior class gift.

 

President Rafael Reif charges the graduates. 

 

 

Me & Selam

Me & Caroline!

Me & Phoebe!

Me & Allan!

Me & Ayomide (aka Riri)