The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 34.0°F | A Few Clouds

Al Gore to Deliver Address At 130th Commencement

By Orli G. Bahcall
Associate News Editor

Vice President Al Gore will be the speaker at MIT's 130th Commencement ceremonies, President Charles M. Vest announced Wednesday.

"We are delighted that Gore can be with us on this happy occasion," Vest said. "It is always exciting to have someone of his stature with us.

"But his role as commencement speaker is particularly appropriate at MITbecause he has been a leader as congressman, senator, and vice president in the areas of science, space, and technology policy," Vest said.

"In addition, Al Gore's commitment and leadership on environmental issues is unparalleled. He has said repeatedly that the protection and preservation of the earth's environment is one of the most important issues facing this generation - a position that reflects the concerns of so many of us at MIT," Vest said.

Former Chairman and CEO of the Chrysler Corporation Lee Iacocca, former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin PhD '66, and Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl are among the people who have delivered commencement addresses since 1982.

From 1964 to 1982, the Commencement address traditionally was given by the president of MIT. Last year's speaker was President Emeritus of the University of Chicago Hannah H. Gray.

Committee wanted Gore

Composed of students and members of the faculty and administration, the Commencement Committee is in charge of the arrangement and conduct of commencement exercises.

"We solicited suggestions through e-mail and our Tech ads, and I brought those suggestions to a closed meeting of the Commencement Committee where we created a short list of suggestions for the consideration of President Vest," said Barbara J. Souter G, President of the Graduate Student Council and a member of the committee.

"Al Gore was a popular suggestion, and we are extremely happy that he is coming," she said. "I'm glad that this year's graduating class will have the opportunity to hear Gore speak," Souter said.

"I think maybe it would be cooler to get the Fonz" - Yale University alum Henry Winkler, who will speak at Yale's commencement - "but the vice president isn't somebody off the street. I'm impressed," said Heather M. Norton '96.

"It's at least somebody that we've heard of," Glenn Koh '96. "I'd never heard of the speaker for last year."

"I like him," Thomas T. Kawamoto '96. When Gore visited in October for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, "I went to see his speech at Kresge, and I liked it. I think he's a good speaker."

But not everyone agreed on the choice. "I'm really not that excited about Al Gore. He's on his little down spiral," said Felix Chen '96. "I could care less about what his views are these days. I'm sick of him.

"I'd sure he'll do fine," Chen said. "I think we could have done better, though. I'd rather have an entrepreneur - some one who made it big" like Iacocca, he said.

"I would wish they would get someone who wasn't a political figure," said Craig R. Leathers '96. "Name recognition doesn't necessarily correlate with speaking ability."

"I'm very excited. I'm thrilled to be having him on campus again," said Undergraduate Association President Carrie R. Muh '96. "I think he's an excellent speaker, and Im looking forward to it. "I think he appeals to a wider audience than the average politician," she said.

Gore talks of discovery in science

"Having coined the term information superhighway' 17 years ago - [something] which will rely heavily on fiber-optic networks being developed at MIT - he is now the recognized public leader of the National Information Infrastructure," Vest said.

Gore recently recognized Vest's support of scientific research in an appeal for federal funding at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Baltimore.

During a speech on the role of science in American society, Gore referred to Vest's annual report as an example of the many critical problems whose answers remain unknown to scientists.

Vest "decided to present his annual report as a series of questions his faculty told him were the most urgent ones in their fields. What he told us in that report underscores the need to deliver on these crucial investments in science and technology," Gore said.

"He reminded us that we don't know which aspects of climate change are predictable. And we need to know," Gore said. "We don't know how best to use our information infrastructure and new media to promote learning among children. And we need to know.

"We don't know how to extract all the energy from existing fuel sources," Gore said. "We don't know how old the universe is, what it is made of, or what its fate will be. We do not understand what mechanism generates mass in the building blocks of matter. And we need to know.

"We need to know these things. We need to understand these things," Gore said. "We need to discover these things.

"We need to create a learning society, a society that harnesses the power of distributed intelligence and uses it to lift our lives. And as the very embodiment of that ideal, you have an obligation to help make it happen.

"As always in America, it's possible - but it's up to us. Let's get to work," Gore said.