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Visions for the Class of 1999

Erik Snowberg

In about two months, MIT’s class of 1999 will graduate.

In about two months, MIT’s class of 1999 will, after two weeks of celebration and tears, hugs and goodbyes, the copious consumption of alcohol and a less than obscene amount of sex, cease to exist in any real way.

In about two months, MIT’s class of 1999 will listen to the words and advice of two aged alums, and clad in black gowns will march across a stage in Killian Court. At this point President Vest will present each and every one of them with a certificate detailing their achievement at this place and formally sever the umbilical cord between student and university. The class of 1999, born only months ago amid a flurry of Senior Fridays and other events, will move from a cold unfriendly institute into a frozen and hostile world. The class unity we have formed will melt away as we ponder our individual career paths. The class of 1999 will be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, and no one will really notice.

In five years we will come back to see how much fatter, balder and depressed everyone has become. We will repeat this ritual until sometime, around our fiftieth reunion, those of us who are left will begin to think about the impact of our class upon the world. Maybe we will discover that the kid we sat next to in biology has won the Nobel prize, or that guy we met at a frat party and couldn’t stand is now a corporate CEO. Mostly we will discover that our colleagues have led decently successful lives, but that we have failed to change anything of any real importance. Our class, so full of talent and energy, will pass unnoticed into the annals of history and into our graves.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here is what I propose: we form a company. All of us. We stay here, or maybe move to a nicer climate, and we continue to build the community that has begun to emerge over the last few months. Freed from MIT, we can build the bonds that the administration and self-segregation have prevented. We can move like a juggernaut over the world using our technical skills and sensibility to solve problems that have long eluded governments. We can banish the individualistic impulses that drive us apart and cure diseases, invent fantastic devices, and do ground breaking research, all in a community that we have created. We can build a safe community with fantastic schools, a kicking nightlife, and beautiful parks. Do you think that having Busta Rhymes here for one concert is cool? Imagine having similar events all the time! We could create a community where all of our wonderful freaks, jocks and prima donnas would be able to find their place and to appreciate each others’ contributions.

Our CEEs could solve environmental problems. Our mech-es could invent fuel efficient vehicles and useful gadgets for the home. Our architects could design the houses we live in. Our Chemists, Material Scientists, and Biologists could work together to cure diseases and make incredible leaps in medical technology. Our EECSs could write software and invent machines that make the impossible possible. Half our Sloanies could manage our tremendous financial resources, while the other half serve as janitors. They would rotate each year, but get paid the same no matter which job they were doing. Our nuke-es could perfect fusion power that makes a minimal impact on the environment. And our lone philosopher could enlighten us all with powerful thoughts.

If there are too many people in any of these groups we can simply lend some of them out as consultants. While out visiting the rest of the world they could spread the word about what we are doing and invite anyone who is interested to join us. The majors I didn’t mention would have their place too; my list was simply getting to long to include everyone. On our fiftieth reunion we could simply gather in the middle of our community and congratulate each other on making the world a better place to live. We might have made tons of money, but most of it would be in the hands of other charities. Our reward would be the smile from a baby we saved from illness or the ability to see the sun without interference from smog.

I suppose this all seems quite insane. Maybe this isn’t the year to start a community. Maybe it is already too late for us. However, it isn’t too late to tell the other undergraduates that they don’t have to wait until after graduation to build a community and make a difference; they can start right now. Share your experiences and your memories with your underclass friends. Remind them incessantly that MIT wasn’t always like this and doesn’t have to continue down this road. Think about what your MIT experience was lacking. When you are reminiscing about the good times, don’t forget the bad ones. Make one last push to make a difference before you leave.