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Pledge encourages socially responsible careers

You've received your degree; so what now? Today you have reached an important milestone in your career; tomorrow you will undoubtedly hold many new professional responsibilities. At this time, it seems appropriate to ask, to what extent have you had the opportunity, while at MIT, to consider the societal implications of your future work? We encourage you to give thought to the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility as a means of enabling serious consideration of such issues.

First proposed in 1987, the pledge has since spread to colleges around the country. In 1988, the pledge was distributed here at MIT and at Stanford University where it was endorsed by Stanford President Donald Kennedy in his commencement address. This year thousands of graduates will receive the pledge.

The pledge distributed here reads, "I pledge to investigate thoroughly and weigh the social and environmental consequences of any professional activity that I may undertake."

The pledge has two complementary purposes. The first is to stimulate a lively and constructive debate about the meaning of "professional responsibility." Such discussion would raise important issues which, for the most part, receive minimal attention in higher education.

Of course, this dialogue should take place not just at the conclusion of the educational process, but rather throughout it. However, the establishment of the pledge as a part of the annual commencement activities would encourage all students to consider the issues which it raises. Moreover, a yearly pledge would affirm the importance of critical thought and discussion about the nature of professional responsibility.

The second goal, closely linked to the first, is to achieve a genuine commitment by graduates to make responsible action an integral part of out professional lives. One who chooses to sign the pledge is committing herself wholeheartedly to a continuous and rigorous examination of her actions and the effects on society. Moreover, she is also pledging to use this examination as a guide in her decision-making. It is important to note that the pledge does not seek to engrave in stone a fixed set of rules. On the contrary, the pledge requires each person to make her own decisions based on her own moral judgment.

A significant aspect of the pledge is that it is voluntary. Mandatory signing of the pledge would reduce it to a meaningless gesture. Essentially, a decision to sign the pledge should be independent and based on serious consideration of the meaning of one's societal responsibilities. In addition, the pledge is private; only the person signing has to know she has signed. Nobody monitors who has or has not taken the pledge. This measure works to ensure that the effects of the pledge will depend only on the signer; no everseeing body checks the individual's judgment against that of some fixed standard.

By signing a pledge which embodies the aphorism that we must each think and act responsibly, you would carry the thought that you should exercise moral judgment in evaluating ideas, making decisions, and choosing action. If you do not feel ready to sign the pledge today, it can wait. Remember that the pledge is a serious commitment, so give it serious thought.

Abyd Karmali G->

Ajay Advani '91->