As scientists and engineers, MIT students constantly balance harsh realism with eternal optimism. On the one hand, we must be machines — poring over facts, figures, and data, determining what is infeasible, and eliminating it. On the other, we must maintain unwavering faith in the possibilities of discovery and the limitless potential of imagination. While we’re here, one of the most important lessons we learn is how to grapple with this duality — how to keep the faith despite setbacks. We learn to be resilient.
But in 2013, the word “resilient” was used to describe us — and our surrounding community — for entirely different reasons, as disruption and tragedy struck Boston and then our own campus.
The word was everywhere — in sermons, eulogies, and the speeches of politicians, from the President on down. Was it used too easily? Was it really just a way to say that Americans have become sadly accustomed to frequent acts of senselessness and destruction? Were we able to return to our daily lives so quickly because we have become hardened in ways we may not fully comprehend? Or perhaps we used the word to help ourselves believe that we had grieved long enough, that we had appropriately internalized tragedy, so that we could return to our normal routines.
In 2013, the opinion section reflected how MIT students navigated the usual duality between realism and optimism — but in an extraordinary year of shock, lockdowns, and grief. Our readers won’t be surprised by the side we fell on: We kept our faith in the possibilities of innovation and imagination. Just as the student body does every day, opinion contributors focused on how the world can be improved.
Among other questions, they asked: To what extent should we balance our individual need for some measure of financial security with a selfless drive to solve the world’s problems? As our society becomes more and more disenchanted with our government, how can we incentivize more effective public service? As online education proliferates, what can we do to make it even better?
Whether our ongoing pursuits signified true resilience in the face of tragedy isn’t easy to know. But what can’t be questioned is our resilience in the face of intellectual explorations that challenge us every day.