With our eyes on the future
To the members of the MIT community,
Today, we learned that we will have a new administration in Washington that promises a great deal of change.
Within the global MIT community – more than 26,000 of us here in Cambridge and at Lincoln Lab, and 134,000 alumni – some will find those changes welcome. Some will not.
As I saw this afternoon, students have wrapped the six great columns in Lobby 7 with huge sheets of paper. Three ask that you "Share Your Hopes," three to "Share Your Fears." They are covered with handwritten responses. People are lingering to read and add their own. Many say they fear for the future of the country, some for their personal safety, for their civil rights or that "my values no longer matter." Others fear that their peers will never take the time to understand why they voted for the winner. One hope struck me in particular: "I hope to understand the 48% of Americans who disagree with me." Nearly all the writers express some kind of pain. Yet together they have created a wonderful example of mutual respect and civil dialogue.
Whatever may change in Washington, I believe there is great power in remembering that it will not change the values and the mission that unite us.
As a community and as a practical force for good, MIT is a quintessential expression of America at its best: Bold, optimistic and focused on inventing the future. Delighted and energized by our diversity, with a meritocratic openness to talent, culture and ideas from anywhere. Humble, pragmatic, crazy about science and insistent on seeking the facts. A place of rigor, ingenuity and real-world problem-solving, where generations of bright young minds have come from every corner of the Earth to make something of themselves and work together to make a better world.
That is MIT.
Nothing can change that. And nothing can change our commitment to tackling big, important problems for humanity – climate change, clean energy, cybersecurity, human health – with colleagues of every identity and background.
As an institution, we do some of our best work when we turn outward to the world. Let's continue to do that now. And, following our students' lead, let us find ways to listen to one another – with sympathy, humility, decency, respect and kindness.
L. Rafael Reif