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‘Car Talk’ Brothers Address Graduates

By Frank Dabek

Pomp and circumstance made way for Click and Clack at MIT’s 133rd Commencement.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, known as Click and Clack the Tappet brothers to listeners of their National Public Radio show “Car Talk,” addressed the over 2,000 members of the graduating class of 1999. Tom and Ray, alumni of the class of ’58 and ’72, respectively, advised students to use their “right brain” and take time out of their lives to have fun.

The brothers’ rambling, somewhat unconventional address focused on the proposition that intelligence and happiness are inversely related, which they entitled the “theory of reverse incarnation.” The upshot of their theory for the audience: “the news ain’t good for you”

A visual aid employed by the brothers listed species in ascending order of happiness: humans ranked at the bottom of the scale followed by the golden retriever, cow, worms and finally grass.

Although the brothers were critical of the type of left brain mentality that MIT represents in their address, Ray at least, gained something from his education here. “MIT taught me how to survive,” he said before the ceremony, “... and how to swim.” The competitive environment of the Institute taught him to “deal with my ignorance... accept it and embrace it.”

Tom relayed his own answer to the problem of reverse incarnation in his address. He told the assembled graduates about nearly being killed in a close encounter between his MG and a tractor trailer. The experience led him to quit his job (although his brother suggested that most people would simply by a bigger car) to his eventual career in automotive repair and radio.

The message: “Never get so involved in your work that you forget to have fun,” as Ray said. Or expressed as a mantra the two attempted to incite the graduates to recite: “unencumbered by the thought process.”

Speech received warmly

Parents watching the commencement ceremonies agreed that the address was funny but still appropriate. Terry Harrington said that the duo was funny but had “a certain amount of seriousness about them.”

Vincent Whitehead described the speakers as “two funny guys that bring real intelligence to what they do.” While he thought that the speech was “slow in the middle,” it provided valuable information, he said.

Henry DiLorenzo said that the speech was “very good...[but] not as motivational as other speakers.”

Despite the unorthodox choice of speakers, the 133rd Commencement occurred as usual under clear skies.

President Vest delivered his traditional address and charge to the graduates. In his address Vest spoke of the requirements for leadership in the 21st century: technological literacy, the ability to change, stewardship of the environment, and a respect for diverse cultures. In his charge Vest told graduates to “ponder the unthinkable. Question the status quo.”

Pooja Shukla ’99 presented the senior gift of $18,700 towards renovations for the student center coffee house.

Parents began arriving to line up for seats as early as four a.m. Henry and Linda Shapiro, parents of Steven S. Shapiro ’99, who procured 11 tickets to the event through a website which was later shutdown by the administration arrived at six a.m. “It’s a special day for all of us,” Linda Shapiro said.