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Graduates React to Ceremony, Speeches

By Zareena Hussain
News Editor

The long waits and cool weather failed to hamper the spirits of those attending MIT's 132nd Commencement last Friday, although not all were impressed by the security arrangements or the guest speakers.

While the speech by world-renowned AIDSresearcher and graduate of the Health, Sciences, and Technology Ho was generally well-liked by graduates, President Clinton's speech and the security imposed on this year's Commencement by his secret service entourage got mixed reviews.

"I expected Clinton to make more of a political statement than he did," said Piyush Bharti '96.

"I think Clinton's speech was a little too long," said Bingru Zhou '98.

"I figured it would be just trying to boost his political image," Timothy J. Sontag '98 said.

While many criticized Clinton for the lack of content and focus of the President's sometimes meandering speech, many appreciated the fact he came to MIT.

"I thought Bill Clinton spoke very well and he was definitely catering his speech to MITstudents. It was very flattering," said Yumi Oshima '98.

"I think it was really cool just to see the president speak," said Andrew J. Russell '98.

Clinton's mention of the recent discovery that neutrinos have mass, was also well received, especially among those receiving degrees from the Department of Physics.

"When Clinton actually said it, we all just freaked out. We just cheered, we were clapping. We thought it was really cool," said Anuranjita Tewary '98, a recent graduate in Course VIII.

During his speech, Clinton called upon MIT students and the world to focus on overcoming the challenges to socioeconomic parity brought on by the information age. Clinton asserted that the gap between the rich and the poor will be widened if steps are not actively taken to combat the so-called "digital divide."

Instead of talking about policy, Ho spent most of his time discussing his own experiences both within HST and in researching the virus that causes AIDS and offering inspiration to graduates and their families based on that experience.

"Members of the class of '98, as you move on in life, be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities brought up by serendipity. Then have courage and conviction in pursuing your goals and ideals," Ho said.

While inspiring graduates, Ho also highlighted his disappointment at the indifference to science and engineering work by the general public as well as a general lack of commitment to research in basic science.

He also criticized recent anti-immigration measures, citing that they will hurt science and innovation in the long run. "Throughout its history, America has continually benefitted from the drive, labor, and creativity of immigrants..."

"Thus today, one prevailing view that immigrants constitute a constant drain on our society is simply baseless, wrong and shameful, in this nation of immigrants," Ho said.

"I thought Ho made a very moving speech, especially about the immigrants," Bharti said.

"I liked how he spoke about the history of his field of AIDSresearch and how he tied it to our role in science and technology,"said Michael H. Perrot PhD '98.

"His comments on immigration were pretty relevant and stuck home with everyone," Sontag said. "He was speaking from his heart."

"That this whole country is made up of immigrants; it was true. I think America should be more willing to accept others," Russell said.

While the speeches by two highly regarded men were fresh on the minds of recent graduates, they also remembered the somewhat acceptable inconveniences brought upon the heightened security which welcomed the president.

Graduates were expected to report to Johnson Athletics Center by 8:30 a.m. for security checks while families could arrive at Killian Court between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., much earlier than in previous years, for their own security check.

Commencement itself, which was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., was delayed by about 30 minutes for reasons including the security checks.

"We waited a long time until [Commencement began]. It was kinda anticlimactic. By that time, I was so tired, I was ready to fall asleep. We had to go through security checks twice," Zhou said.

"I thought [security] was poorly organized," Perrot said. "The wait definitely brought down the event."

"I thought it was an inconvenience that we had to be there so early and we had to wait two hours in Johnson," Sontag said.

However, others didn't mind the wait. "It didn't feel too long because everything went so smoothly," Oshima said.

"It didn't seem as bad. It was a little annoying," said Lindsay A. Kong '98.

"It was inconvenient but tolerable. Having to get there early made the day much longer. Beforehand, we were told what it was. I think it was worth it to hear the president speak," Russell said.

"It was a pain in the butt, but it was necessary," said Erik D. Nelson '98.

Tewary, who had carefully affixed her graduation cap with a plethora of bobby pins, noted that the security checks required that the caps be removed. Nonetheless, "it was worth it. Having Clinton there made it very special."