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Chung Offers Alternative Commencement Speech

Column by Michael K. Chung
Opinion Editor

"Let the Rush begin!!!"

Wait - time warp. Has it been that long ago since we were all here together in Killian Court, the freshman picnic? Just to revive old times, whenever The Aga Khan (that's our commencement speaker) looks in your direction, jump up (you'll want to stretch those legs anyway), throw both arms in the air, and yell at the top of your lungs, "LET THE RUSH BEGIN!"

At this point, The Aga Khan (along with your parents and the people around you) will probably give you a funny look, but just say it again. If you're lucky, you'll have yelled it with other fellow graduates.

Okay, enough of that. I just had to try for a commencement issue column opener like Bill Jackson '93 did last year, telling everyone to do the wave every time Mexican president Carlos Salinas de cortari said "North American Free Trade Agreement." Don't be dismayed, fellow '94s - you can still do the wave. Just don't wait for The Aga Khan to say NAFTA; instead, wait for class president Ann Chen to say "senior gift."

How about that senior gift, anyway? ("Well heck what more needs to be said about it after what The Focus did to it" - to be said in the David Letterman big, dumb-guy voice). What has MIT done for you lately? What has it done for you ever? Let's rephrase the question: what has MIT done to you lately?

I pause here to give you all a healthy five-minute flame session. Just do it before you get to your seat in Killian Court - it is considered bad joss to curse the Institute in the presence of the great scientists' names. Plus, you'll look like a bumbling idiot.

Now ask yourself this: what have you done for MIT lately? Stop rolling your eyes toward the ceiling - what have you done? If you're like a lot of people, probably not a whole lot. So the least you can do is make a donation to MIT. If you don't like the senior gift (I don't, and I admit it - but if I really felt strongly about it I might have joined the committee beforehand), then donate it to something else.

I told myself several years ago to pledge money toward the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program after I graduate. That's what I plan to do, but that doesn't mean that I'll exclude other worthy gift recipients.

In my tenure as opinion editor for the past year or so, I've edited a considerable number of letters, columns, and other various submissions. And on the topic of donations toward MIT, one letter particularly annoyed me: in the midst of flame mail about former Associate Dean of Student Affairs Jim Tewhey, one alumnus stated that based on his experiences with Tewhey, he refused to ever donate to MIT, and tries his best to convince other alumni in his company to follow his example.

Just because one may have a bad experience at MIT does not necessarily mean that the entire Institute can be viewed as such. Therefore, it is important to keep the proper perspective regarding one's experiences at our school. Factor in the ever-rising cost of higher education, and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to find a worthy gift recipient within the Institute.

With that said, I wonder what The Aga Khan will say to us. (long pause) I hear that Harvard is hosting Vice President Al Gore, that Boston University had H. Ross Perot, and that the Berklee College of Music featured rock star Sting (for the commencement speaker; whether or not he broke into song is beyond my knowledge). The Aga who?

Why don't we have more student speakers? How about a student speech day? (What? Science majors can talk about some meaningful subject other than the sciences? Where do you think we are - somewhere up the Charles?)

I've often thought about how cool it would be to make an address at the commencement ceremonies, but what would I say that I haven't already written about? I suppose that I would try to say something inspiring, yet not overly trite or just plain lame.

Aside from the above about how we should continue to support MIT, I would say:

"We all must continue to learn. Not just in one's chosen career, but in what goes on around the world. We live in such changing times that it behooves each of us to pay attention to current events and have an idea of the progression of our society.

"Do you favor current trends of world affairs and societies? Do you have any opinions regarding these? We must, not only as individuals, but also as a society, make our voices heard regarding the progress of our communities and nations, and how to insure their progression for the better. This means that we have to not only be informed about events and policies, but also care enough about issues to express our viewpoints and offer solutions.

"In my eyes, MIT students appear to have a considerably apathetic view on many things. Part of this is due to commitment to our studies, certainly a noble pursuit. However, as we progress through our lives and careers, it is vital to our well-being to pay attention to the world around us before it turns into that which we fear most.

"Look at issues on the domestic level: crime, health care, racism, welfare. The international level: Bosnia, North Korea, Russia, the Middle East. With ignorance, local issues can spread to uncontrollable proportions. It is important for us to have a competent and informed government to implement and maintain effective policies, and it is our duty as citizens to assist in creating and upholding these policies.

So go then, new graduates - embark on your adventures in the world and always keep your perspectives broad, not only for yourself, but for mankind as well. Congratulations and best wishes."

And on that note, congratulations to all of you (us) graduating. I thank those of you who regularly read my columns for doing so. It was interesting to know that some of my friends here actually read what I wrote and could associate schools of thought with me.

While I can't say that a lot of people said "Oh, you're Michael Chung, the guy that writes stuff for The Tech?" upon meeting me, it has happened. While I appreciate the positive encouragement I received for my columns ("Really Mike, it wasn't that bad of a column"), I was quite glad to receive critical (and humbling) responses to my works.

I have always tried to accept criticism in the right way, however, trying to always learn other sides of issues. After all, if there was only one side to it, would it be an issue?

To those of you I have met throughout my years at MIT, thank you for everything you have provided. To those of you at The Tech (you know who you are, but don't flatter yourself if you're not sure), thanks for the great times, opportunities, and one of the best activities I've ever taken part of.

Mike Chung regretfully resigns from his position as Opinion Editor. He could write little farewells to everyone he knows here, but has spewed plenty enough in his association with The Tech.