On Radios and the Real World
When Icame to MIT, I wanted to learn how to build a radio. Four years later, the Institute has shown me something that Idon't usually admit - Iwas wrong. Idon't want to know how to build a radio.
That pretty much sums up the completion of my undergraduate education.
Needless to say, as the graduates herd forward to claim their long-awaited diplomas, a little withered from the heat exhaustion, there will be no announcement made as to whether or not they can build a radio.
Similarly, there will be no mention of how many classes the graduate slept through or how many assignments were left undone in favor of a romp in the sun. Thank goodness.
Whatever colorful past brought you to Commencement, you head off just like everyone else into what is commonly called the "real world."
One of the first things the Class of 1998 did together was listen to welcoming remarks from then-Dean Arthur C. Smith. By the real world, he figured people meant "the non-academic world outside the boundaries of MIT."
This year, thanks to the Secret Service, even Commencement will be hermetically sealed off from the real world.
At MIT, we've had the unique opportunity to be self-absorbed for roughly four years. The majority of the Institute's pressure is focused on individual success in the classroom.
That is what will be honored today in Killian Court. Each and every graduate is an outstanding individual. Most can subsist on a few hours of sleep each night and couple packs of Ramen each day.
Needless to say, I'm relieved that even Smith wouldn't consider MIT to be a sample of the real world. Personally, I'm looking forward to a world where success isn't based on individual technical prowess. While working over the summer, my co-workers would tire of my uncanny Fourier transform abilities after the third or fourth parlor trick.
Future success, and happiness, will be based on our ability to function in a community.
The one thing that I'll concede my degree gave me, besides refining my healthy cynicism, is opportunities. There are a lot of places you can go and doors you can open with an MITdegree, or just a brass rat. Far from just scoring cool jobs, graduates will also find themselves in a position to choose and shape the communities they live in.
That means you can choose to isolate yourself. Or, you can choose to experience a wider array of the real world. To me, that decision seems like a no-brainer. Evidently, it isn't for everyone.
Today in Killian Court every hedge is trimmed neatly into place. Every tree has been gently settled into the proper location. Even most of the grass is new.
If you squint, though, and look across the river (still try and look nice for the Jumbotron), you'll see a world where the hedges are overgrown, the grass is browning, and people eat knishes on the street.
Beware as you enter the real world, though. Your MITreputation will precede you. This is great at work, but I bet when the fence breaks the neighbors will think the engineer should fix it.
Personally, Ihope to live among some of those blessed individuals that believe Iattended the Michigan Institute of Trucking. With a little luck, there will be a pretzel truck right outside.