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We Survived! Graduates Urged to Use Powers for Good, Not Evil

Below is the text of Class of 2007 President Susan Shin’s address to the graduates during Commencement on June 8.

My friend Melvin introduced me to “Heroes,” a TV show that tells the story of ordinary people who discover that they possess extraordinary powers. When they find out that they have these remarkable abilities, they begin to accept their gifts, learn to control their powers, and discover others who are as special as they are. As these strangers from across the globe come to meet each other, they find that they are all united by a common goal: to save the world.

Hiro Nakamura is one of the show’s main characters, and he has the ability to bend space and time. At first, Nakamura uses his abilities for fun, showing off to his friends and taking little vacations through time. But, he quickly realizes that because he has this power, he has a great responsibility to the rest of the world.

On a trip into the future, Nakamura witnesses a horrific crime that wipes out an entire city, killing millions. Once he returns to the present, his doubts cause him to lose faith in his abilities, and because of his doubts he is suddenly unable to travel through time. He begins to worry if his powers will be strong enough to defeat his enemies and save his friends and to build the future that he wants to see for himself. What Nakamura finally realizes is this: everyone has their fears, but heroes overcome them.

When I look out into the audience today, I see my friends, my classmates, my heroes, and I recognize their extraordinary gifts. There are students here who have published research, patented new technology, and started their own companies. Others have won national championships or even courageously battled a life-threatening illness. All of us have persevered through the hardships of life at MIT and achieved greatness, because, when it came time to choose between giving up and hoping, we made the right choice. When that opportunity to be a hero comes to you, what will you do? When a moment of consequence arrives, it is my hope that we will relish that moment, rise to the occasion, and inspire by example.

We, the graduating class of 2007, may not be able to fly or teleport ourselves, but we don’t need these special powers to save the world. In fact, we have something much more important: the hope that we can change the future for the better. All of us set to graduate have struggled to hold on to this hope despite all that MIT has thrown at us, but it is because of the others here today — our family, friends, and teachers — that it has remained strong. And it is because of where we are today, the place to which we are now saying goodbye, that we have the chance to fulfill our hopes and dreams.

When we give ourselves something to look forward to, no matter how great or small the event, we are giving ourselves hope. When there is hope built into tomorrow, there are all kinds of opportunities to overcome the obstacles we face today. In a short while, we will walk across this stage as MIT graduates, having conquered our fears and doubts, ready to save the world.

Today is a day of great happiness. We have survived the Institute. And we have so much to look forward to after today.