China news dominates graduation
By Irene C. Kuo
Remembrance of student demonstrators massacred in Beijing echoed through speeches at MIT's 123rd commencement on June 5 at which 1776 students received degrees and were exhorted by President Paul E. Gray '54 to "hold to the values of democracy."
Under clear skies in Killian Court, retiring MIT Corporation Chairman David S. Saxon '41 opened the commencement ceremony by noting the disparity between the culmination of the graduates' studies and the "tragic culmination" of the Chinese student protests. Saxon, Gray, Provost John M. Deutch '61, former President Howard W. Johnson, and commencement speaker Paul Tsongas, a former US senator from Massachusetts, wore black mourning bands.
Gray told the graduates that he had intended to speak on the cold fusion controversy, inquiries into allegations of academic fraud, and the need for them to increase public understanding and appreciation of science and technology, but that the events in China had made him rewrite his speech.
"The massacre in Tiananmen Square . . . shows how easily and how dreadfully the spark of freedom can be crushed by those who hold power and are so afraid of losing it," he stated. He called those who were killed, "people who just wanted a voice . . . who wanted democracy."
"I ask of you . . . that you hold to the values of democracy: the freedom, indeed the obligation, to talk and to listen -- to forge a future, based not on the power of one group of people over another, but a future based on a partnership among peoples, among nations, people who respect each other enough to trust each other."
Tsongas also condemned the Chinese government's actions and called for a moment of silence to remember the slain students.
While his references to the global village, the thawing of the Cold War, and the "tide of democracy" suggested blurring of national boundaries, the rest of his address, sprinkled with anecdotes and jokes, urged the graduates to deal with the "other war." He described this war as one with "our friends" -- with Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Switzerland, Korea, and France -- who "sell to us and then take away our patrimony in return."
He added that discipline, purpose, will, determination, hard work, sacrifice, attitude, and "above all, . . . education" would be necessary. Until the "weapons of the mind" were celebrated, he predicted the nation would endure a declining standard of living.
"Perhaps here, more than almost any other campus in America, the products of MIT will be called upon to restore that patrimony."
1945 degrees awarded
Gray and Deutch presented 1945 degrees -- 1040 bachelor of science degrees and 905 advanced degrees. The degree recipients included 413 women. The advanced degrees consisted of 212 doctorates, 666 master's degrees, and 27 engineer degrees. A master of science degree in engineering was awarded posthumously to William S. Tuleen, who was killed in an auto accident on March 28.
Three or four graduates bore body-length banners that proclaimed "MIT War Research Kills." Another graduate had a flier remembering the slain students in China taped to his back. On a lighter note, Corinne Wayshak '89 had a video camera attached to her mortarboard.
Senior Class President Carissa G. Climaco '89 presented Gray with $5663.98, "seed money" for the Class of 1989 Scholarship Fund.
Cambridge resident Bob LaTremouille of the Simplex Steering Committee carried out a quiet, one-man demonstration just outside Killian Court. He called the Simplex site "MIT's little Tiananmen."