MIT’s 43rd Annual Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


[MUSIC – YOUTHFUL PRAISE,
“GRATEFUL”] (SINGING) I’m grateful
for all of the things You’ve done, done for me. You’ve been faithful
and merciful. For my sins, You forgave me. Hallelujah, I will sing to You. All the glory, I
will give to You. I will never praise You enough. I am grateful for all of
the things You’ve done, done for me. You’ve been faithful
and merciful. For my sins, You forgave me. Hallelujah, I will sing to You. All the glory, I
will give to You. Halleluiah, I will sing to You. All the glory, I
will give to You. Hallelujah, I will sing to You. All the glory, I
will give to You. I will never praise You enough. Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful. Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful. Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful. Healer, You been to me. Healer, You been to me. Faithful, You been to me. Faithful, You been to me. Say, Ha Ha. Le Le-lujah. Say, Ha Ha. Le. Le-lujah. Healer, You been to me. Healer, You been to me. Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful. Oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh, I am grateful. [APPLAUSE] Good morning, everybody. Good morning. The MIT Gospel Choir
will have another song to sing for us this morning. We would appreciate your
full and undivided attention as we listen. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC – YOUTHFUL PRAISE, “HE’S
WORTHY”] (SINGING) It’s time
to give God all– I’m sorry. [LAUGHTER] (SINGING) It’s time to
give God all of the praise. It’s time to praise
His holy name. For all of the things
He has done for us, everybody give Him
all the praise. It’s time to give God
all of the praise. It’s time to praise
His holy name. For all of the things
He has done for us, everybody give Him
all the praise. For His goodness, His
mercy, and His favor, He is worthy of the praise. For His goodness, His
mercy, and His favor, He is worthy of the praise. For His goodness, His
mercy, and His favor, He is worthy of the praise. God is worthy. Worthy. Come on, let’s praise the Lord. Worthy. Come on, let’s praise the Lord. Worthy. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. He’s worthy. Worthy. Come on. Come on, let’s praise the Lord. Worthy. Come on, let’s praise the Lord. Worthy. Come on. Come on, let’s praise the Lord. God is worthy. [APPLAUSE] Good morning. Good morning. My name is Pedro Polanco. I’m a student– a first
generation student here at MIT, who comes from
the Bronx in New York. Whoo! And– thank you. And this year, I am
a senior, studying mechanical engineering. I will be your
master of ceremony for today’s celebration. Please join me in thanking MIT
Gospel Choir one more time. [APPLAUSE] Now, I would like to introduce
Reverend Rahsaan Hall, who will lead this morning’s Invocation. Good morning. Good morning. Let us center ourselves
in a moment of prayer, out of respect for all
faiths and religions. God, your work is messy, but you
have called us into the mess. The work of righteousness
will oftentimes be opposed, but we stand under the
shadow of the Almighty with our loins girded in truth– the truth of your
creative power, the truth of your righteousness,
the truth of your peace, the truth of your
liberation and your love. That truth, and that
love, that allows us to speak life and shed
light into the darkest corners of the hearts of humanity. That love and that truth that
allow us, and empower us, to speak truth to power. We, therefore, will
lift our voices. We will lift our voices
in protest of injustice. We will lift our
voices in solidarity with the afflicted
and the oppressed. And we will lift our
voices in praise of you, and our rejoicings will rise
high as the listening skies. And it will resound
from Ferguson to Fallujah, from
Benghazi to Baltimore, from Kansas City to Khartoum,
from Milwaukee to McCollough, from Texas to Tehran, from
South Carolina to Syria, and from Massachusetts
to Mogadishu. We will let our rejoicings
rise, because we know that there
is a greater day, and that there is
a greater power. And we will, in the spirit
of one of your great servants and leaders, the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King, not be silent, for he
said, our lives begin to end when we are silent
about the things that matter. And so we are here proclaiming
that justice matters, that righteousness
matters, that love matters. This is our prayer. Amen. Amen. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Reverend Hall. Now, in the spirit of our
celebration of the life and legacy of Dr.
King, we would like you to greet, to meet, to shake
hands with someone near you– at your table, across
from you, or behind you. I invite you to go forth now. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Fantastic. Welcome. Once again, welcome. Yeah. Welcome to the 43rd Annual
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. We are excited by today’s event,
and are happy that you are here today to celebrate with us. I would like to take a moment
to thank President Rafael Reif and Christine Reif, our
hosts for this morning. I would also like to thank
our honored guest and keynote speaker, Dr. Aprille Joy
Ericsson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Capture Aerospace
Engineer, and Course 16 MIT alumna of 1986. Thank you for joining us. [APPLAUSE] Tonight, at a special dinner,
the MLK Jr. Leadership Award winners will be honored. We are very pleased to recognize
these individuals and groups, who embody the ideals
of Dr. King in service of the community. Today, I would like to share
with the audience this year’s award winners. The names of this
year’s winners, and all the names I’m about to
announce, are in your program, if you want to follow along. Please stand up as
I call your name. And please hold your
applause until the end. Michael Beautyman, Catherine
Gamon, Maryanne Kirkbride, Kristala Prather, Tremaan
Robbins, Reginald Van Lee, the Muslim Student Association. [APPLAUSE] Now, I would like to recognize
the 2016-2017 MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars. Please stand as
I call your name. And again, please hold your
applause until the end. Kishonna Gray, Ryan Hynd,
Ryan Preston-Roedder, Steven Richardson, Kenneth
Reeves, and Jacquelyn Taylor. [APPLAUSE] I would like to thank all the
members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Subcommittee of the Presidential Committee
on Race and Diversity, to whom we owe this
wonderful event. Please stand as I
call your names. Committee members include Edmund
Bertschinger, Acia Adams-Heath, [INAUDIBLE], La-Tarri Canty,
Sharon Clarke, Tiarra Gwynne, Sally Haslanger, Alice Johnson,
Co-chair William Kindred, Heather Konar, Deborah
Liverman, Paul Parravano, Co-chair Zena Queen, Christine
Reif, Marina Robinson, and Tobie Weiner. Thank you all for contributing
to the success of this event. [APPLAUSE] The theme for this year’s
celebration is Lift Your Voice! True peace is not merely
the absence of tension– it is the presence of justice. We are here this
morning, not only in celebration of the
remarkable work of Dr. King, but also to reflect on how
we, both as individuals and as a collective, can make strides
toward continuing his legacy. As we go through the program,
we encourage everyone to truly examine what it means
to dismantle oppressive systems and rebuild them into
the structures that are safe and just. However, this feat proposes
a difficult question– where do we start? In reflecting on
this question, we hope to emphasize the importance
of each person’s voice and story in the process
of eliminating injustice. Dr. King understood that this
process is not always easy and certainly does not always
come without antagonism. But everyone’s voice,
including yours and mine, is crucial to the resistance. So what will we say? I have the pleasure
of introducing two of our very own students– undergraduate Rasheed Auguste
and Faye-Marie Vassel. They will guide us in a
reflection on the life and legacy of Dr. King. We will hear first from
Rasheed, followed by Faye-Marie. Please put your hands
together for Rasheed Auguste. [APPLAUSE] You guys look great. [LAUGHTER] You guys look better. [LAUGHTER] Hi, everyone. My name is Rasheed
Auguste, and I am a senior here at MIT
studying nuclear science and engineering, and
double majoring in physics. Our theme today reads– True peace is not merely
the absence of tension– it is the presence of justice. Now, a few words stick out to
me in this statement, namely peace, absence, tension. But none more than justice. Justice grabbed my attention,
because, for me, it conjures an image with
two sides, like a coin– one passive and one active. On the passive side,
justice describes a state or a situation. Think, for example, Judge
Miller served justice to Maria, fining her landlord for
rent in small claims court. On the other side, we
have the active version– my favorite. Maria fought for justice
in small claims court by suing her landlord
over the rent dispute. The difference is slight. In one case, justice
was the outcome. In the other, justice was
the object of pursuit. Our theme calls is to focus
on the active side of justice, because we need to do more
than just manage tensions. We need to actively
work to improve our situations, in favor
of peaceful, just outcomes. So what does working
for justice mean? What does it look like? The answer, as any engineer
knows, involves a process. The process has three
steps, the first of which is feeling powerless. Somewhere in the world,
there is an injustice, and it troubles you,
depending on who you are, and justice can be different. However, it is
important to realize that everyone faces injustice. It may just look or
feel a different way for different people. Now, if you’re me,
you might get asked to produce an MIT ID to board a
Tech Shuttle at Kendall Square, not even a five
minute walk from here. You can wear your MIT hat on
your head, an MIT sweatshirt on your chest, your Mens et
Manus crest on your torso, but the color of your skin
is clearly the obstacle. As folks without colored
skin, regardless of dress, will be waved right
on, no problem. Now, it could be raining
in Kendall Square. Class could start in 5
minutes across campus. And so, I’d still use my
Brass Rat hand to fish out and flash my MIT ID, and
feel the weight of racism penetrating through my MIT
meritocracy, swallow my spit, take my seat, and
keep it moving. And right then, I can’t help
but reflect on injustice. Does it affect just me? Just people different, like me? The people told again and again,
you deserve equal treatment, but being denied the
equality promised them? As I said, this experience
of feeling powerless is not unique to me. 2016 was especially difficult
for a lot of people. Everyone had their
different reasons, but deep feelings about
the elections were common. Understandably so,
the same weight of hateful rhetoric
and injustice took its toll on these
feelings, on my college campus, on my home, on my MIT. Regardless of
political position, my MIT needed healing and
support on November 9. As many of you remember, the
usual buzz of the Infinite Corridor was lulled. Heads hung, and I heard the
somber march of students through the hallways– hundreds of them– and you
could probably hear a pin drop. The tension was even visible. Each person was half present,
with either their eyes puffy and red or glazed over. And it hurt me to see so many
people I know suffer, and not be able to tell
them, it will be OK. Because even though it
might be reassuring, it might not be true. Today is not November 9, MIT. So I can offer you more than
open arms for consoling, or attentive ears for listening. I have stepped two– find a community
of change-makers. Chances are your issue is
not as unique as you’d think. You are not, and have never
been, alone in your pain. There are others before you,
above you, and around you, with experience in the same
issues, who will always have insight and solutions. Last year, students
across the country appeared on my
Facebook timeline, going viral, sharing
painful experiences of hate and indifference
on college campuses. At peer campuses like
Yale, safe spaces were brushed off by tenured
professors, who labeled students as too sensitive. The president of the
University of Missouri sat passively as
swastikas, vandalism, and hate speech reigned
on campus for months. And at MIT, things were silent. Now, the story of
injustice towards under-represented students
at predominately white institutions is historically
well-documented. But I was inspired
by two new responses that allowed me to find my own
community of change-makers. First, Students Across
America compiled lists of actionable items for
their respective universities to improve campus climates. Second, my president,
Rafael Reif, came to sit with black
undergraduate and graduate student leaders right over
there in the BSU Lounge and asked for such
a list himself. Now, as I said, others before
me, above me, and around me had experienced mistreatment
for their minority aspects of their identities. But the difference
in my case was clear. After our meeting with President
Reif, I had step two in mind. And with some help, I
looked for my own community of change-makers at MIT. We sought different kinds of
opinions from students, alumni, faculty, staff, or
anyone who would listen. We spoke in the dining
hall, student lounges, and literally knocked
on office doors. But it was pretty nerve-wracking
showing up to new spaces and meeting experienced
professionals. Mind you, these are folks
who have years of experience, greater than or equal
to, the amount of time I’ve spent on this earth. [LAUGHTER] But we were determined to
find people who could help us make a better world at MIT. I specifically
remember the first time we had a meeting with MIT
Institutional Research. Now, we take our research
very seriously at MIT. We like the numbers
and the data points, and Institutional Research
records all of MIT’s survey results, dealing with
topics from student life to faculty parking. So basically, they do the
data for us data people. Now, walking into
this meeting, I’m practicing a whole spiel in
the mirror, my heart’s beating, my palms are sweating. I walk in the office
expecting office type business people buzzing around like
bees with no time to listen. And instead, I’m
greeted by a few people who were at an office table. No bees in sight. And the whole situation
is oddly calm. One turns to me
and says, Hi, I’m Lydia, Director of
Institutional Research. And I freeze up, forgetting the
whole spiel, including my name. [LAUGHTER] She says, and you are? And now, the heat is on. [LAUGHTER] And in my head, I’m
saying, this is a test and I’m about to fail. But I studied for this
question, and so I rambled through everything. And the whole time,
Lydia and her team were listening intently. I finish, but she’s still
looking at me with an almost sage-like concentration. And I’m thinking I’ve
said something wrong. But in the most
grandmotherly way possible, she adjusts her glasses,
looks at me across the table, and says, you look like
you haven’t eaten today. [LAUGHTER] Would you like a clementine? [LAUGHTER] OK. A clementine. And just like that, turned
out I was worried for nothing. And the office staff offered
help, and more fruit, just as naturally as Lydia. Institutional Research
patiently answered questions, listened to my
thoughts and feelings, respected our feedback, and
kept our vitamin C levels up the whole time. [LAUGHTER] This way of collaborating
really struck me as the power of community. It is a model for how building
a case for justice should be. By talking to the change-makers
with the most experience, the most institutional
memory, we were able to improve our ideas
efficiently and speedily. And we went back and forth. We could add a question
to this survey. We can’t do that without
eliminating another question. And eventually, we
reached a consensus for a group of
questions that tell us how to create a better,
and more inclusive, MIT. I felt empowered in
the process, like I had a valued
contribution to making our ideas, our compromises,
and our solutions real. Well, real enough for an
8 by 11 sheet of paper. But more importantly,
these people took the time to become my MIT
community of change-makers, and we were able to take our
ideas out from abstract space and put them on
a sheet of paper. And taking these ideas off the
page and bringing them to life is step three, which I like
to call, do the damn thing. Step three is perhaps
the most straightforward. You just do the things
that you said you were going to do in step two. Step two makes justice explicit. It puts it into words. You answer questions
like, what do you want, and how do you get there? And step three is
putting in the work to make this justice a reality. I’ve learned that the people
who’ve invested their time to execute step two have
the same passion for change as you do and will work
with you to make it happen. Involving others expands
the reach of your solutions, convincing those
you thought were out of your reach to do things
differently and for the better. After the Black Students Union
and Black Graduate Students Association submitted lists
of recommendations for MIT to be more diverse and
inclusive, groups across campus began finding their own voices,
releasing their own lists– the Black Alumni at MIT, the
Muslim Students Association, the Rainbow Lounge, you name it. Altogether, each group
submitted over 100 ideas to make MIT more
inclusive, more just, and more peaceful for everyone. This wave reached
academic council, including the five school deans,
President Reif, our chancellor, and our provost. And as I stand here today, there
is an Academic Council Working Group working together, just
like in step two, with students and staff to make
MIT a better place. This school year, MIT’s
undergraduate financial aid went up by 10% from
the previous one, and millions of more
dollars are being spent to keep our MIT education
affordable for my mother– I mean, everyone. [LAUGHTER] There is specific
people in place accountable for making
progress, so there can be no tension, no ambiguity,
and no confusion about what to do or how to do it. The power of step
three is realizing that this community
of change-makers can take active steps
towards justice. Now, this amazing
mentality exists at MIT. If you want something,
go chase it. And if it doesn’t exist
yet, then just make it. And people really live by this. So if you want justice,
you have to chase it. You have to fight for it. You can’t settle for
ambivalence, indifference, or passivity. Looking bigger than MIT,
national and world news headlines have started to focus
on exciting people’s fears. Now, these headlines,
fake or real, are created intended
to scare readers, but also decisions are being
made to negatively affect people’s lives. I ask you today not to
adopt this attitude of fear. Turn instead toward
inspiring change. Be the inspired change. Because you are different. You are unique. You have knowledge, privilege,
a rich cultural history, a powerful network, a
large endowment, something to contribute. This difference enables
you to find a way for it against injustice in a
way that no one else can. Take your place with active
stances against injustice, and find peace by
making justice active. We’re here for more than
just talking, sharing, or retweeting. We can get actively involved,
and do more to impact change, to fight for justice,
to create peace. And not only because we
should, but because we have to. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Good afternoon. My name is Faye-Marie Vassel. And like Pedro, I am also
from the Bronx, New York. I’m a sixth year PhD student
in the Department of Biology, and I’d like to thank
the event organizers for allowing me to
participate in such an important celebration. While preparing for
today’s celebration, I found myself reflecting on
how the political and social changes that have come about in
response to the 2016 election drive home the great importance
of this year’s theme. As such, as I stand
here before you all today, I must admit that
I was worried that I would not be able to prepare a reflection
that would adequately honor Dr. King’s legacy considering
the threats to justice and equality that we might have
to fight against in the coming years. I also found myself reflecting
on the fear and uncertainty that crippled me days after
the election and, to my dismay, reemerged during the first
weeks of this presidency. This fear and uncertainty
is driven by the thought that the efforts towards
greater equality that have come about over
the last eight years may disappear overnight, due
to the device of rhetoric that President Trump relied on
so heavily during his campaign. Because of these unsettling
possibilities, now more than ever, my upbringing
has driven home the importance in remembering
that no man or woman is an island unto
themselves, for we are stronger when we remember
that we are all connected. As Dr. King eloquently
expressed in his historic letter from a Birmingham
jail, “Anyone who lives within the bounds
of the United States can never be considered an
outsider, for whatever affects one, affects all. Once again, whatever
affects one directly will affect all indirectly.” During my first
year of grad school, it became increasingly
evident to me that forming connections with
others, whether they share your own story or not, is
crucial to creating communities where inclusion
of diverse peoples and tolerance of diverse
opinions is truly possible. Early on in my
first year, if you were to ask me about
my journey to MIT, I would have said that
my story was like that of everyone else around me. And in many ways, it was. Like many of my
classmates, my first year was, academically
and personally, one of the most challenging
years of my life, for the rigor of the
course work forced me out of my comfort zone. Yet, in many ways, my
first year was actually quite different than
that of my peers, as it brought about
much self-reflection. I started to recognize that
the social atmosphere of MIT, and life in the
greater Boston area, was, at times, less hospitable
to diversity, and in some ways, less progressive,
than what I was accustomed to in my
hometown in New York City. The weightiness of this reality
left me feeling isolated. This feeling of isolation was
further compounded by the fact that many of my classmates,
almost seamlessly, formed deep connections
with each other. This left me feeling
like an outsider during a period where forming
connections with my classmates might have helped lessen the
burdens of the challenges I encountered during
my first year. In addition, it was during
the first year of grad school that, for the first
time in my life, I felt boxed into a
singular identity, that of a woman of color. While this is true,
it felt stifling, because I knew this was just
one aspect of my identity, and just one aspect
of what it meant for me to be a PhD
student at MIT, and to be a woman in America. This frustrating realization
that, to many here, my identity was largely defined
by their perceptions of my race has been evident to me
throughout grad school, for the actions of
some faculty and peers have forced me to
question whether I, as a black woman
from the inner city, will ever truly be
welcomed and accepted here. Experiencing these
feelings of otherness has been jarring, for truth be
told, prior to coming to MIT, I was immersed in a world where
I felt often felt included, a world where diverse
identities were the norm. This reality was
enhanced by the fact that I am a child of
immigrant parents, namely an Afro-Caribbean
father from Jamaica and a white Russian
mother from Uzbekistan. Due to my upbringing from
early on in my childhood, I was intimately aware
with some of the struggles that immigrants may
face while adjusting to a new land and
a new language. I now realize that this helped
shape how I define myself, and helped me to be both
critical and empathetic of the world around me. Due to the growth, educational,
and economic disparities I often witnessed because
I lived and attended public schools in a
major urban center, from early on in
my childhood, I was aware of many of the injustices
that run rampant in society. While I attended elementary
school with children from working class and
immigrant families, and lived in a neighborhood
where parents and teachers alike were staunch
believers that education was the key to social mobility,
I attended a middle school in a low income neighborhood
that was severely underserved. Many of the students that
attended this school lived challenging lives in
impoverished conditions in the nearby housing
projects, where a deep mistrust of public
education was rampant. My high school, home to notable
alumni like James Baldwin and once designated as one of
96 outstanding high schools in America, became
a poster child for the decay of urban
public education. And as such, was a place where
I, and some of my classmates, feared traveling home,
for a drug or gang fueled argument may be raging
out at any moment. These experiences have
impacted me deeply and have forced me to face
the uncomfortable reality that, despite the US
government’s commitment to provide each student with
quality public education, education in the United
States is still not equal and just for all. Many of our brightest
children are not given the chance to sufficiently
meet their potential, and many others are
not even allowed to consider these possibilities. Fortunately, my parents’
determination to persevere in the face of adversity has
helped to remind me that, in spite of the injustices
that many in our nation face, we cannot fall into despair. I think my parents
were especially poised to play this
role, for, as immigrants and an interracial couple,
it was not uncommon for them to encounter challenges. I think it is precisely
because of the challenges that they could create
a home for me, where I was able to learn
the value of being a compassionate
individual, and to respect the stories of others. Their love for each other, and
belief in many shared values, such as the American dream
that brought them to the United States, revealed to
me that, in spite of their diverse backgrounds,
their relationship was not complicated
by, but enriched from, their differences. Additionally, their ability to
form rich, lasting connections with members of each
other’s home communities has shown me that growth and
understanding often only comes about if we are open to patient
and honest discourse, even when it is uncomfortable. I am immensely grateful
for these teachings and the value of tolerance. I tell you all about these
aspects of my identity to highlight that, while
we all may be defined by many different attributes,
at the end of the day, I believe that, through
intentional actions, like empathy, a desire and
curiosity to understand the lives of others, and honest,
yet potentially uncomfortable, discussions, we can do
the work to better connect with each other and to make
strides to a more equitable and just America. Furthermore, as we
gather here today in this uncertain
political climate, I hope that we will
see the dangers of any political message that
depends on creating divides between citizens. In such times, I
also hope that we take to heart Dr.
King’s telling words and remember that
“we are all caught in a network of mutuality, tied
in a single garment of destiny. An injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere.” So friends I ask you to remember
that we are all connected, and to never forget that there
is immense power in taking action against
injustice that threatens to undermine our unity. So if needed, have those
uncomfortable conversations about sexual identity,
race, or gender inequality. Join a campus or local
organization to advocate for a social cause
you care deeply about. Remain open to
thoughts and belief systems outside of your
personal framework. And importantly, remember,
as Dr. King said, “Injustice must be rooted
out by strong, persistent, and determined action.” So as best as you can, always
remember to lift your voice. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Once again, I would like
to thank both Faye-Marie and Rasheed for their thoughtful
and perspective remarks, and for letting the words
and ideals of Dr. King be heard once more. [APPLAUSE] We will now hear a
musical selection from Jermaine Tulloch. Good morning, everyone. Good morning. One of my favorite quotes from
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is “The ultimate
measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience, but
where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” So with this song by Gospel
artist Donnie McClurkin, I urge you to, despite your
present circumstance, to stand. [MUSIC – DONNIE MCCLURKIN,
“STAND”] (SINGING) What do you
do when you’ve done all you can and seems
like it’s never enough? And tell me, what do you say
when your friends turn away and you’re all alone, all alone? Tell me, what do you give
when you’ve given your all and it seems like you
can’t make it through? Well, you just stand when
there’s nothing left to do. You just stand, watched
the Lord see you through. Yes, after you’ve done all
you can, you just stand. Tell me, how do you handle
the guilt of your past? Tell me, how do you
deal with the shame? And how can you
smile when your heart has been broken and sealed
with pain, sealed with pain? Tell me what do you give
when you’ve given your all and seems like you can’t
make it, make it through? Well, you just stand when
there’s nothing left to do. You just stand, watch
the Lord see you through. Yes, after you’ve
done all you can, you just stand and be sure. Be not entangled
with that again. You just stand and endure. Because God has a purpose. Yes, God has a plan. Tell me, what do
you give when you’ve done all you can and it seems
like you can’t make it through? Well, you just stand. You stand. You stand. You stand through the hurt. Make sure you stand
through the pain. You stand through
every heartache, and stand through the rain. Don’t give up. No, don’t give in. Oh, keep on fighting,
because you’re gonna win. Stand. Stand. Stand. Oh, after you’ve
done all you can, after you’ve done all that
you can, you prayed and cried, you cried and prayed,
you prayed and cried, you cried and you
prayed, you cried and you prayed,
after you’ve done all you can, after you’ve
done all that you can, after you’ve done all you
can, after you’ve done all that you can, after you’ve done
all you can, you just stand. Just stand. You just stand. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much, Jermaine,
for that very uplifting song. Can we hear it one
more time for Jermaine? [APPLAUSE] And now, it gives
me great pleasure to welcome the 17th President
of MIT, Rafael Reif, who will speak to us first, and then
introduce our keynote speaker. President Reif. [APPLAUSE] Good morning, everyone. Pedro, thank you for
that brief introduction, and thank you particularly for
the absolutely wonderful way in which you properly
pronounce my first name. [LAUGHTER] Many, many thanks to everyone
who helped to bring us together this morning, and I
would like to highlight our host, the Committee on Race
and Diversity, the MLK Planning Committee, and our
Institute Committee and Equity Officer,
Ed Bertschinger. And above all, a huge thank
you to our student speakers– our truly incredible
student speakers– Rasheed and Faye-Marie. I’m sure I speak for all
of us here to tell them both that you make me,
and you make all of us at MIT, extremely proud. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I also want to acknowledge,
now that I see him in the audience, a
very special guest– one of the tireless
citizens of the city of Cambridge, Ken Reeves. And we’re very, very happy
to have you here today. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] When we came
together a year ago, I spoke with admiration
and excitement about a new effort inspired
by the remarkable leadership of the BSU and the BGSA to make
our community stronger and more inclusive. That effort, as you heard
earlier from Rasheed, led to the creation of the
Academic Council Working Group on Community and Inclusion. Since then, this team
of student, faculty, and administrative
leaders has helped drive important progress, and
I’ll highlight a few of them. This year, MIT recruited
Dr. Karen Singleton to spearhead MIT Medical’s
Mental Health and Counseling Service. And I understand Dr. Singleton
is with us this morning. Are you somewhere? There she is. Karen, thank you for joining us. [APPLAUSE] Karen is a recognized
a leader in providing multicultural mental health
care, most recently at Columbia University. And this year, MIT
Medical further deepened its expertise
in race-based trauma by adding three
additional clinicians. Our orientation for
all undergraduates now includes an important
new interactive session on diversity, facilitated by
30 specially trained faculty and staff. To help inform our
decision making, we’re gathering and
posting new diversity related data, from
the senior survey to new diversity dashboards for
students, faculty, and staff. The provost asked
all departments to develop and post a statement
of departmental commitment to health, diversity,
and inclusion. And nearly all the
statements are either posted, or in the final stages. And finally, as Rasheed
mentioned this morning, MIT financial aid
budget is on the rise, showing at 10.4% increase
for this past year alone. In making these gains, in making
this significant progress, this team has made MIT stronger
and better for all of us. So please join me in
expressing our appreciation for their dedication
and their leadership. [APPLAUSE] Well, last year our focus
was on making progress in our own community,
for our own community. But today, in a
very different time, I want to focus my
remarks on the larger context we’re all experiencing. I want to reaffirm our
community’s core values, and I want to challenge
us to think about one way that we, as a community, can
help serve the nation now. We live in a moment when
some fundamental assumptions seem to be in question– assumptions about how we
should conduct ourselves as individuals and as a society. At the most basic level,
even familiar standards of decency and open
respectful discourse are no longer something
we can take for granted. In that context, I
would like to try to articulate a few
of the unwritten rules of our own community so we
can reflect on them together. At MIT, when our
community is at its best, racism, bigotry,
and discrimination are out of bounds. Period. Diminishing or excluding others
because of their identity with race, religion, gender,
sexual orientation, disability, social class, nationality,
or any other aspect, is unthinkable and unacceptable. It is also out of the
question to bully others. Period. Such behavior is
simply beneath us, because we value each other
as members of our community, and respect each other
as fellow human beings. Intellectually,
we are a community where prejudice,
prejudging, is anathema. In the MIT community I love,
our personal interactions benefit when we behave as we
do in our intellectual work– assume less and ask
more to learn more, refrain from jumping
to conclusions on superficial evidence, and
listen as closely and as much as we can. In the best American
tradition, the MIT community is also open to talent from
every part of our society. Our students, faculty,
and staff come to us from every faith,
culture, and background, and from all 50 states. At the same time, like
the United States, and thanks to the United States,
MIT gains tremendous strength by being a magnet for talent
from around the world. The mission we pursue
together is too important, and too difficult, for
any of us to spend time erecting artificial barriers
to anyone else’s achievement. We welcome and embrace
all the great talent that we’re fortunate
enough to attract. And the truth is that people
who love discovery and problem solving typically
love to collaborate and work with people
who see things from a different perspective. The beautiful result, as we have
discovered at MIT over decades, is that, when people
of many backgrounds work together to address
big, human challenges, whether it’s climate
change or fresh water access or Alzheimer’s, they
come to value each other as human beings,
united in a struggle larger than themselves. I believe these are some
ideals that we can agree on– civility, respect, openness. But I want to
highlight one more. An ideal that demands
even more of us, especially in these times. At MIT, the free
expression of ideas is also a fundamental value. It is a value completely in line
with our passion for boldness, big ideas, and real
world problem solving, and with our insistence
on analytical rigor and on seeking hard facts. In my experience at MIT,
valuing free expression means accepting
each other’s right to express deep disagreement
and candid criticism, sometimes in very strong terms, whether
the subject is science or philosophy or politics. The capacity to
listen to each other through passionate
disagreement– passionate disagreement–
is an indispensable tool for learning. We shouldn’t trade or
compromise that for anything. As long as such arguments are
governed by mutual respect, they are part of how we make
each other smarter and wiser. Within our community, I
believe we can almost always count on that mutual respect,
and we should insist on it. In these unsettled
times, however, we may find, as other
campuses have already, that our commitment
to free expression can be tested by
voices and forces from outside our community,
and from outside our circle of mutual respect. If we face such a struggle,
I hope and believe we can stay true
to our MIT values. As we have seen clearly
in recent weeks, our nation contains
deep divisions, and those divisions of opinion
are part of our MIT community, too. When I wrote to the community
about the recent executive order restricting travel from
seven majority Muslim nations, many people told me
they were grateful that MIT was standing up for
our students, our colleagues, and our values. But others wrote to tell me that
they disagreed with our taking a public stance, and that
they see the measures in the executive order
as a reasonable path to make the country safer. I disagree with them. Many of you may
disagree with them. But the fact remains
that they are members of the MIT community, too. The coming months and years
may put great pressure on as a community. Whatever we face together,
it is of utmost importance that MIT remains a place
that can endure and grow from the challenge
of dissenting views, a community that
makes room for us all. Nearly 150 years ago,
in a speech in Boston, the legendary American
statesman, Frederick Douglass, made a remarkable speech– at the time, a shocking speech– in support of
immigration from China. His larger point was that the
United States is, in his words, “a composite nation.” The American nation
is, by definition, composed of many parts. Douglass argued that this
fact makes us stronger. Just as it is with a
composite material, our separate strengths
enhance each other and, together, they form
the great new strength of the whole. With this idea in mind,
Frederick Douglass also urged us always towards unity. As he wrote, “In a composite
nation like ours, as before the law, there should
be no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no white, no
black, but common country, common citizenship, equal
rights, and a common destiny.” In this heated
moment in America, I believe that we must
avoid, with all our might, the forces that are driving
our nation into two camps. If we love America, and if we
believe in our nation’s best possibilities, we cannot allow
those divisions to grow worse. We need to imagine
assured future together, a common destiny, if
we hope to have one. As Dr. King once observed,
“the ultimate measure of our character is
not where we stand in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where we stand at times
of challenge and controversy.” I am certain that our
community can help work on this great challenge
for the nation. I invite you to help us
think how we might tackle it in practical terms,
and I believe we can start right
here by living up to the ideals of our own
community, caring for it, and making it better, too. I ask us to commit ourselves– mind, hand, and heart– to rise into the challenge of
this difficult moment together. And now, it’s my great
pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, a
wonderful example of MIT values in action. But first, a question– is there anybody
here from AeroAstro? [LAUGHTER] Are you ready to
make some noise? Whoo! Whoo! Our speaker today is
Dr. Aprille Ericsson, a distinguished aerospace
engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who also
happens to be a 1986 Course 16 graduate of MIT. In fact, we’re excited to have
with us two faculty members who worked with her in
the department– her undergraduate advisor,
Institute Professor, Sheila Widnall. And she can tell us
more about the speaker. [APPLAUSE] And Professor Wesley Harris. Where is Wes? [APPLAUSE] Dr. Ericsson was
the first woman, and the first
African-American woman, to earn a PhD in
mechanical engineering from Howard University, and the
first African-American woman to receive a PhD in
engineering at NASA Goddard. So she’s used to
breaking new ground. Through more than
25 years at NASA, she has worked on a wide
range of advanced technology projects. Just recently, she
assumed a new role as the new Business Lead
for the Instrument Systems at the Technology
Division at NASA. Among her many honors,
in 2015, if you don’t listen to any more of
what I’m talking about her, listen to this one– among her many others in
2015, Business Insider ranked Dr. Ericsson eighth on
its list of the most powerful women engineers in the world. Whoo! [APPLAUSE] That’s another way
for me telling you, don’t mess with her. [LAUGHTER] And in 2016, she was inducted
into the Washington DC Hall of Fame. According to those who
knew her best at MIT, Dr. Ericsson is very
intense, very focused, and very, very caring. In particular, we’re
grateful for her service to our community. As a member of the
Industrial Advisory Counsel of our Office
of Minority Education, she often comes back to
campus to mentor young women and students of color
considering aerospace careers. Whoo! [APPLAUSE] [LAUGHTER] And in the process,
she inspires us all. As one of her admirers
put it, Aprille is a true MIT product,
and a true credit to MIT. So please join me in welcoming
our keynote speaker, Dr. Aprille Ericsson. [APPLAUSE] So let me say a couple of
things while it’s booting up, because it got unplugged. So I felt the students’ message. It was very heartfelt
that I felt your pain. I’ve taken the high
road on this discussion. I’ve chosen to connect the
dots of hope and inspiration and change that Martin
Luther King Jr. provided for me as I grew up. Please realize,
though, that there are threads of pain
and frustration between the lines of my speech. However, anyone that knows me,
I rarely display, or voice, that discomfort. I’m an agent of change. So let’s begin. Thank you so much
for bearing with me. I did a all-nighter
for you guys. [LAUGHTER] So you have to see the slides. [LAUGHTER] All right? OK. So good day, everyone, and thank
you for that great welcome. I’m honored that
I’ve been chosen to speak at this 43rd Annual
Celebration of the life and legacy of Dr.
Martin Luther King. Please bear with
me for a moment, because it’s been a long
journey to this stage. And I have a few
people I want to thank. So first of all, thank
you to my alma mater, MIT, and to our luncheon
host, both the president and his first lady. [LAUGHTER] And of course, to the committee. I know you guys worked
tirelessly to make this happen. I say, it takes a
village to raise a child, and believe it or not,
I am still growing, so I believe in always
thinking the village that helped to raise me. Zina Queen– Ms. Queen
was the first one to rush over to
one of my meetings and say, I really
need you to speak. I want you to speak. So thank you for inviting me. Bill Kindred, who’s another
board member for IACME, and Sharon Clark,
who, with the– I don’t know– hundreds
of emails back and forth to get these logistics right. It’s not easy getting a
government traveler here. Then, special gratitude to my
family, who are right here– my aunties, Michelle and Carol. And a good friend of mine,
Sherry, is here as well. And there are lots of
other families and friends from the community of Cambridge. So thank you for coming. It’s really special
to see you guys here. [APPLAUSE] There are industry partners
from the board, IACME, Office of Minority Education,
and, of course, to my mentors, Dr. Sheila
Widnall and Dr. Wes Harris. And I don’t where– I couldn’t find where he is. Where’s Wes? Is he hiding back there? He’s in the back. He’s hiding. I got my hug earlier. And I’m hoping– I have a couple of MIT
mentees, so every year, I mentor students. I’m also one of those
people and I actually had to do the interviews
for three freshmen so I get to know them
that well as well as well. And I run the mentoring
program at Goddard, so we have a MIT
mentoring program. I’m hoping maybe that the
coaches from the basketball team might– because you know,
I was a baller back in the day. [LAUGHTER] And so Sonia said she
might stop through, and Larry Anderson, so I
see them quite regularly. I just want to express my
sincere gratitude for everyone for showing an
interest in coming out to break bread together in
honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I realize that there are
only 86,000 seconds in a day, and that you’re sharing some of
today’s most precious moments with me. Next slide. And I’ll be saying that
because I don’t have the– I’m used to clicking. Today’s theme of Lift Your
Voice is a powerful statement that could be followed by
even more powerful action. As I prepared to share
my thoughts today, I searched for statements
made by Dr. King that resonated with me. My appreciation for his
thoughtfulness, his eloquence, grew by abounds. You will hear them sprinkled
throughout my delivery. However, I struggle
with how correctly to speak on his statement– “True peace is not merely
the presence of tension– it’s a presence of justice.” I feel the tension. Don’t you? It makes me
uncomfortable to have to still speak about the
injustices in our country. But as Martin said, “The
ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in a moment of comfort and convenience, but
where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is no secret that I’m a
champion for Mother Earth, inclusion of diversity, and
educational opportunities for all. I stand before you
accepting that challenge, as I have in the past, and will
continue to do in the future. Next slide. For many of us, we remember
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” For some of us, there
is a poignant vision of that dream that was inspired
by his words during the March on Washington for
Jobs and Freedom. Unfortunately, his
calls for an end to racism in the United
States, and for civil rights and economic rights then
are still pertinent today. Next slide. As a little girl,
Dr. King’s words fostered a dream where I was not
judged by the color of my skin. Reflection of that
realization of my dream, some might think that,
about 35 years ago, I began my journey as
an aerospace engineer, as I walked onto the MIT campus. However, I know that that
journey started much earlier, probably at the tender
age of 4 and 1/2, as my mother walked me down
to our Brooklyn, New York neighborhood school, PS 81. My mother had me recite
pertinent information to convince a school
official that I was a bright young
child that should be enrolled in kindergarten early. That following year,
my mother enrolled me in a bussing program that
took me way across the city to attend a better school
in a predominately white neighborhood. And throughout my
pre-collegiate years, I jaunted many, many miles
to schools like that. Thank you, mommy, for
your foresight and wisdom. As Martin would say,
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you
don’t see the whole staircase.” Next slide. My time spent at MIT was
academically challenging. I did not find easily a close
bond with my classmates. My athletic pursuits
of varsity basketball were not always rewarding,
and often tiresome. I recall many a late
night when studying alone in my room at East
Campus in Senior House– shoutout– [LAUGHTER] –I could not keep my
eyes open a moment longer. And at that moment, I
would look above my desk at a poster of my younger
sister my mom had brought me. Can you hit the slide? It was a collage of great woman
figures in the African-American diaspora– Sojourner Truth, Harriet
Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Mary McLeod Bethune. I often reflect on
how others before me were able to achieve
academic engineering excellence from meager
and humble beginnings. I would challenge myself and
say, how can I not persevere? Some were thwarted, and
left with a dream deferred. I think, how can I not
forge on and persist until I succeed at being
the best that I can be? Next slide. The feats of my Egyptian
ancestors in architecture, agriculture, spherical
trigonometry, algebra, analytical geometry,
calculus, geodesy, astronomy, aeronautics, navigation,
engineering, metallurgy, and medicine often go
unherald, and are usually shrouded in silence. My ancestors continued
to posthumously play a role in inspiring my
dreams and achievements. Next slide. I have been called
a giant in science. And if that is the
case, it is only because I stand on the
shoulders of my forefathers. I’m particularly
thankful to my ancestors for all their help
and inspiration in getting me here today. Hopefully, many of you find
inspiration for your dreams through the accomplishments
of your ancestors, as I do. Next slide. Alex Haley once
said his father used to say, “If you see a turtle
sitting on top of a fence post, you know he had
help getting there.” [LAUGHTER] Next slide, please. My dream of being
someone who makes a positive impact on the
world, and on rocket science, that has been on a
long, arduous one that has only been
possible through the love and support of my
community of networks, ranging from Brooklyn, New
York, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Washington DC, MIT, Howard
University, National Technical Association, National Society
of Black Engineers, and NASA. I consider myself
to be extremely fortunate to have
been able to acquire the various degrees and awards
and accomplishments in my life. Many times, I have faltered. But I’ve been lucky to have a
giving and inspiring family. My lifelong MIT mentors, Dr.
Sheila Widnall, Dr. Jim Gates, and Dr. Wes Harris, are leaders
of the professoriate and true practitioners as
Dr. King states– “The function of education is to
teach one to think intensively, and to think critically. Intelligence plus
character, that is the goal of true education.” This has truly been the
example that they have set. I applaud them for having been
very encouraging, inspiring, and guiding throughout my life. Your legacies will
live on through so many of your students. Next slide. As I pondered my successes
in developing aerospace tools and technology to
help mankind, I took the trip down memory lane. I have watched history
unfold before my eyes. I realize– next slide, please– how fortunate I am to have
people like Dr. King and Rosa Parks, who have made
an impact, so that I could be all that I could be. Dr. King even had an
impact in the browning of the aerospace industry ranks. Next slide. I would like to share a story
that Nichelle Nichols often tells. Nichelle’s story starts with an
unplanned meeting of Dr. King. She tells an exchange
where she and he both remark on how each one
are their biggest fans. At the time, she was
portraying the role of Lieutenant Uhura, chief
communications officer on Star Trek Enterprise. Any Trekkies out there? Whoo! Whoo! At the time, she portrayed– hit the button again– portrayed the role of Lieten– I already said that. She then mentions
to Dr. King that she was planning to leave the show,
explaining that she wasn’t under contract and
was ready to go back to furthering her dream
of dancing in Europe. Dr. King shared with her how it
was one of the few TV programs that he would let
his children watch– yeah, think back then, right– and that it’s primarily
because of the positive role she played as the
communications officer. This technical role was so
unlike the typical maids roles that many women of
color prior to her played in movies and
on national television. Nichelle says that she,
then, reconsidered leaving, and went to discuss it with
Gene Roddenberry, the writer and executive producer. It is stated that
Gene Roddenberry was determined to make the crew– the Star Trek crew– racially and culturally diverse. And he promised Nichelle
and George Takei just that. He worked it out that Nichelle
was paid as a daily walk-on. Ironically, she made
more money that way. Note, she was also strategically
visible behind Captain Kirk’s right shoulder on
all the camera shots on the crew of the
Enterprise deck. Next slide. Nichelle’s impact– [LAUGHTER] –for me– next slide– and the aerospace community
continued when she later helped NASA by serving as a
spokesperson, and recruiter, to encourage African-Americans
to apply as astronauts. Those efforts led to the
successful acceptance of major Dwight Lawrence,
Colonel Guion Bluford, MIT’s own Dr. Ronald McNair,
Colonel Frederick Gregory, General Charlie Bolden,
former administrator up until a few weeks ago of
NASA, and Dr. Mae C. Jemison into the astronaut corps. Next slide. Just a little note
here for the timeline– the last episode of
Star Trek aired 47 days before Neil Armstrong
stepped onto the moon as part of the Apollo
mission in July 1969. I was a child during those
radical ’60s and ’70s. In 1969, a parent brought a
small black and white TV– yeah, I know, I’m
dating myself– to public school. We little first
graders crowded around to watch the Apollo 12
mission land on the moon. Can you hit the button, please? It broadened my horizons
as a little girl growing up in the Brooklyn hood. It helped plant that seed
for dreaming about space travel for the last– and for the next 20
years, Katherine Johnson had been an inspiration for me. And I do know her, that
hidden figure that we are so familiar with now. Hopefully, children
will be further inspired by these missions through
the unveiled figures that are now gracing the big screen. Of course, there were
additional influences to grow that seed of interest,
like Star Trek, Flash Gordon, The Jetsons, my afternoon
favorite, Lost in Space. [LAUGHTER] Warning, Will Robinson. [LAUGHTER] As a pre-teen, after watching
the first Star Wars movie, I remember racing out of the
theater with my arms stretched out imagining I was maneuvering
to avoid the dark side TIE fighters. At that time, we
Americans dreamed big and accomplished much change. Change can happen fast. Don’t we know? The vast majority of the
members of my generation, born during the struggle to get
the Civil Rights Act passed, considered that the notion
that people should be segregated based on
the color of their skin to be both morally repugnant
and downright ridiculous. Attitudes change
quickly, especially after positive
developments occur and everyone sees the
correctedness of this change. Next slide. Our advances in space
have happened rapidly. And as many of you
know, the world’s interests of man exploration
started as early as the 1950s– you’re going to have
to keep hitting it– with different countries
vying to be the first in the great space race. For the US, in the
1960s, we started– I’ll put my hand
and you hit it– we started with Surveyor,
Ranger, Apollo, and the Gemini missions. In the 1970s, Skylab and Viking. In 1980s, the Space Shuttle. And in the 1990s, we had
Sojourner, Pathfinder, Mars Rovers. And in the 2000s, the
International Space Station. Space travel science and
communications spacecraft have become a routine
part of our daily lives. Next slide. However, I want to remind
you, as President Kennedy so eloquently stated,
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade,
not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.” Space travel is
hard and dangerous. Sometimes achieving one’s
dream is hard and dangerous. It was little more
than 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy
delivered a speech that inspired one of the most
successful service projects in American history– the Peace Corps. He issued a challenge
to the students, who had assembled in Ann
Arbor, Michigan on that October night– “On your willingness to
contribute part of your life to this country, I think
will depend on the answer whether a free
society can compete. I think it can. And I think Americans are
willing to contribute, but the effort must be far
greater than we have ever made in the past.” End quote. While It is said that
history repeats itself. I believe that that
challenge is before us again. Next slide. When I graduated from MIT,
it was only four months after the first space
shuttle disaster. As a young college graduate
in the aerospace field, with a strong interest
in human spaceflight, my future was uncertain. At the time, I interviewed
at MIT Lincoln Labs, and I was disappointed
to find that I might work on only
defense missile projects. Although strategic
defense is important, my heart was set on
human spaceflight, and supporting science. The interviewer
stated that, if I wanted to be able to pick the
focus of my research projects, I should get a PhD. I realized, with hard work,
attaining a PhD could open up doors for me, and it did. I would like to think
that interviewer for planting that seed in me. My collegiate
research experiences as a student nurtured my growth
and trainings for aerospace as an aerospace engineer
rocket scientist. I fueled my desire
to explore space. Next slide. When I left this institution,
I went on to graduate school at Howard University
in Washington DC. Not Harvard, because that’s
what everybody kept asking– did you say Harvard? No, I said Howard. [LAUGHTER] But I must say, Howard
is often considered the Harvard of the
historically black colleges and universities. [LAUGHTER] I found that the Howard
University model of Veritas et Utilitas– Truth and Service– complimented
the MIT model of Mens et Manus– Mind and Hand. For clarity of
that latter, it is stated that this means
blurring the boundaries of the theoretical
and practical, knowing not only the
concept behind something, but also how to apply it and
create value of the world. With this deeply
ingrained mantra, I actually fit in
at Howard, and I was elected graduate
student council president for several terms. During that time, I thrived as
a positive, impactful leader for my fellow graduate students. The student body
included people of color from all ends of the
African diaspora, and many other
international countries. Studying with my sepia-hued,
yellow-tinted, red-boned, and white-skinned
brothers and sisters, I came to realize, early
in my academic endeavors, we might all come
on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,
which is what Dr. King said. Next slide. Fast forward to the present. Many of us continue
to wonder what the future will
hold in the quest to travel farther into space. We know it’s hard and dangerous. However, with people
who dream, and who dare, and who are committed,
we will do hard things, like go to Mars. It will require
international teams working with many diverse partners. Next slide. To remain a world class leader
in technological development, the ethnic and
racial composition of our STEM workforce must
resemble the diversity of the US population. Discrimination affects us all. The US cannot afford to leave
out the fresh perspective of more than 50% of the
population by discriminating against women and minorities. Inclusion of women and
minorities is a must. As Dr. King has
said, “We must learn to live together as brothers,
or perish together as fools.” When I work with my science
and engineering teams, I know that each
member is important. Their diverse backgrounds,
cultures, and experience afford our team different
contributing perspectives to arrive at the
optimum solution for the many challenges
we face at NASA. Can you hit the button? It leads me to think, would the
mammogram be so uncomfortable if a woman had designed it? No. [LAUGHTER] All right, ladies. [APPLAUSE] Yes. Next slide. I know that hurt, fellas. In particular,
minorities and women must strive to
change perceptions about their participation
in nontraditional careers. To do this, we must start
internally, and then work outward. Personally, I’m
proof in the pudding. Every day, I’m
changing perceptions. I’ve done my own
reading and research, so I can take pride in my
ancestry, my roots, my African, Caribbean, and Indian history. I started out as this little
girl in Brooklyn, New York and had the opportunity
to see men go to the moon, during the Apollo missions. It started as seed for my dream. I didn’t start out to be the
first African-American female from Cambridge to receive
a degree from MIT. You didn’t know that, did you? Mm-hmm, Cambridge
Chronicle, they reported it. [LAUGHTER] They were on it. But I am proud to be. I’ve accomplished many firsts. And if I’m up to be a
trailblazer, a role model, then so be it. I try to represent well, being
mindful of all the others that come behind me. I am not done yet. I’m on a mission to increase the
number of women and minorities creating new
technology in fields like aerospace engineering. We can be anything we want
to be, regardless of what others think or tell us. We must believe in
yourself, in your dream. We engineers and scientists
are agents of change. Every day, we impact
the future of the world. Our communities
and countries are harnessed with many challenges. We have been trained to
solve these problems. Continue the tradition that
many other students have started in universities, and find a
way to serve your community and your country. An act that will help
you to stay connected to your fellow
citizens, and improve the lives of those around you,
consider, embrace, and drive change. Several years ago,
President Obama eloquently echoed these sentiments to a
crowd of college graduates. So this is for you guys,
the college students– “The men and women who sat
in your chairs 10 years ago, and 50 years ago, they
made America possible. And there is no guarantee that
the graduates who will sit here in 10, or 50, or
100 years from now will enjoy the same
freedoms and opportunities that we do America’s success
has never been a given. Our nation’s destiny
has never been certain. What is certain, what
has always been certain, is our ability to
shape that destiny. That is what makes us different. That is what makes us America. Our ability, at
the end of the day, to look past all
of our differences and all of our
disagreements, and still forge a common future. That task is now on
your hands, as is the answer to the question posed
about whether a free society can still compete.” Hmm. Did he read Kennedy’s speech? Maybe. Bear with me one moment. I believe in you
and your willingness to contribute to this country
as past generations have. I, like Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., President Kennedy, and President
Obama, still believe we can compete and succeed. Next slide. I am truly fortunate that
I have a position at NASA. Can hit it real quick? One more time. There we go. That I can promote and
support the development of new technology that unlocks
the mysteries of science. I’m also afforded
the opportunity to speak to many young
people across our country and the globe. I get to inspire the youth
and touch the future. Who could ask for a better job? Next slide. Complex space missions require
many people working together to achieve that goal. To my Course 16
people over there. Note, the International Space
Station research facility has been occupied
since 2000 only through the partnership
of 17 different countries. Next slide. It is my experience–
one more time– it is my experience
as an innovator that, when diverse
ideas collide, it sparks innovation
toward optimum solutions. Next slide. Many astronauts have
looked back at the Earth in all of its majesty. They have said they see
no borders, no walls, and no barriers. OK, you can see the
Great Wall of China. OK. [LAUGHTER] But let’s embrace that thought. Please remove your
internal barriers to embrace the differences and
capabilities of each other. Next slide. As displayed by the
Star Trek crew here, let’s embrace Gene
Roddenberry’s dream– vision– of diversity in space. For us to go to Mars,
we will need everybody now and in the future. OK, I know I’m probably
preaching to the choir, but I’m going to say it anyway– we must work together across
the differences of our skin color, gender,
languages, and cultures, which are just artificial
boundaries that we impose. Women, minorities,
and everyone must continue to work
together for us to remain technically competitive. Please realize we are
transcending this journey together, a dream to make
this world a better place. Next slide. We have gone from
developing microtechnology to nanotechnology. And a nanometer, for
the non-techie types, is anywhere from
100 to 10,000 times smaller than the diameter
of your human hair. These developing
technology will enable us to work on the atomic level. We are building CubeSats– I visited the lab,
President Reif, today– which are satellites that
are the size of a coffee cup to maybe the size
of a large shoe box. Next slide. I want to end with this thought. Imagine this– there is a bank
which credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no
balance from day to day, allows you to keep
no past balance, and every evening cancels
whatever part of the amount you failed to use
during the day. Hmm. I heard that hmm. [LAUGHTER] What would you do? I say, draw out every
cent, of course. Right? Well, everyone has such a bank. Its name is time. Every morning, it credits
you with 86,400 seconds. Every night, it writes off, as
a loss, whatever that amount you have failed to
invest to a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day, it opens a
new account for you. Each night, it burns
the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s
deposit, the loss is yours. There’s no going back. There is no drawing
against tomorrow. You must live in the
present, on today’s deposits. So I say, invest it to get
from it the utmost in health, happiness, and the warm feeling
derived from helping others be the best that they can be. We must make a difference now. We only have the present. Because our future’s
not promised. I’ll take that moment from
the quote that Dr. King says– “The time is always right
to do what is right.” I add, there are always
many challenges that occur every day in our world– I put this on my Facebook
page, by the way– in our world, in our nation,
in our states, in our cities, in our neighborhoods. The time is always right
for us to do right. Feel empowered to do our part. Although it’s important
to lift your voice, I feel it is not always about
the “get out and protest.” Imagine if we smiled
at each other more, we were respectful of
everyone, we worked together and not against each
other, we all actively participated to create
the environment we want. Wow. How powerful is that? I see that vision every day. Can you see it? Changing this world
to be a better place starts with me and you. I believe I’m an
agent of change. I ask you to get up and
out to help each other. We are all capable
of making an impact. We can all do great things. It’s a matter of choice
what your destiny is. What do you choose? The time is always right
for us to do what’s right. Next slide. As you ponder these
statements, please make a conscious decision
to leave your positive mark on this world. Consider this– even
if you live 100 years, your moment in history is
brief, a minuscule period when comparing either
the age of the Earth or the total time of
evolution of the universe, approximately 4.5 billion years
old, and 15 billion years old, respectively. Remember, the clock is ticking. You have approximately
39,600 seconds left in today. Yeah, that MIT degree paid off. [LAUGHTER] Please make the most
of today and every day. Lift your voice, MIT
community members. Next slide. I always end with, shoot for
the moon and, even if you miss, you will still be
amongst the stars. OK, any astrophysics in here? I know I’ll be a
long way off, but– [LAUGHTER] I believe in peace, and not war. Peace for me also means Positive
Energy Activates Continuous and Elevation. Last slide, please. True peace is not
merely in the absence of tension– it’s in the
presence of injustice. Make this place a better place. Help our children, for
they are the future. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So I want to definitely echo
Dr. Ericsson’s sentiment. I’m feeling very
inspired right now. I don’t know about
the rest of you. Kind of in that vein
of where do we begin, I have one announcement as
a suggestion for all of you, if you’re interested in
going ahead with this fight. So here we go. As last year’s MLK
Award recipients, Fossil Free MIT and the BSU
have a continued sense of duty to help tackle issues
of equity and justice. Therefore, together with
other partners across campus, they will be
spearheading a forum on racial and environmental
equity and justice. This forum will be
a series of events that will address
how people of color, and indigenous
communities, often endure the most severe
consequences of climate change and environmental issues. We invite the MIT community
to not only participate in this forum, but to also
contribute further energy, ideas, and events. The first event will
be held next Thursday, February 23, where Alexie
Torres-Fleming will discuss her inspiring
journey in addressing issues of environmental justice
in my hometown, the South Bronx. If you have any ideas or energy
to support this initiative, please reach out to Jose Lopez– and if Jose could
just raise his hand– from FF MIT, or feel free
to go to fossilfreemit.org for more information. Got one? Yeah, one last announcement. Yeah, it’s weird. So as many of you
know, in Lobby 10 there are some installations up. Last week, the students of the
2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. IAP Design Seminar
assembled their installation in Memorial Lobby,
all in accordance with Toby Weiner’s class. We invite you to review
the exhibit from now until the end of the day
tomorrow in Memorial Lobby. So if you haven’t already
seen it, they’re all great. OK. I realize I’m in a dangerous
position right now, because I’m one of the few
obstacles standing between you– ooh– between you and lunch. I’ll pick that up in a second. But I have one last
announcement– first, can we please give one
more round of applause to Dr. Aprille Ericsson. [APPLAUSE] One more announcement–
the MIT Libraries has partnered with the MIT
Black Women’s Association to choose the book Hidden
Figures for the newly launched MIT Reads program. Please consider reading the book
and joining in the community discussions later this month. There’s one coming up
the following Wednesday. If you haven’t seen
the movie, definitely go and see the movie as well. [APPLAUSE] So without further ado, we
will conclude today’s program with the singing of Lift
Every Voice and Sing. We ask that you join in and sing
the first verse of the song. The lyrics are located on
the back of your program. After the song, John Wuestneck
will give the blessing, and lunch will be served. Please stand. [MUSIC – JOHN WELDON JOHNSON,
“LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING”] (SINGING) Lift every voice
and sing till earth and heaven ring. ring with the
harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicings rise
high as the listening skies. Let it resound loud
as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the
faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the
hope that the present has brought us. Facing the rising sun
of our new day begun, let us march on
till victory is won. [APPLAUSE] Let us pray– Bless to us, oh God, the
folks around and near us. Bless to us, oh God, the
excitement, the pain, and the challenge before us. Bless to us, oh God, the food
which nourishes our bodies and graces our tables. Bless to us, oh God your peace. Amen. Amen. I would like to thank
everyone once again for joining us this evening. I hope you enjoy the
rest of your day. And please, enjoy lunch. Take care. [APPLAUSE]

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