On the "Black Lives Matter" Silent Protest

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As prepared for delivery

After a long semester, my wife Chris and I always enjoy coming to this winter party, to connect with so many of you we don’t get to see often. We like to come and see everybody in that special moment of relief, just between the end of classes and …whatever happens right after the end of classes.

Our wish is for all of us to have an opportunity to relax together and enjoy each other’s company. And I know that this is not a time for long speeches. 

But I do have something serious to say, so I would like us to pause for just a moment.

At MIT, every semester is a hard semester – and most of the time, we enjoy the challenge.

But for many members of our community, this semester, and especially the events of the last few weeks, in Missouri and Staten Island, have been hard in a completely different way. For many members of our community these recent events have been hurtful. Deeply disturbing. And heartbreaking.

Today, some members of our community organized a demonstration to say… through their silence…that Black Lives Matter. 

Black lives matter.

That the injustices of our society make this statement necessary is incredibly sad. I resonate with, and I understand, the tremendous pain and sense of betrayal those words express.

Recent events have shown us, again, that terrible fault lines of race are still a major issue in our society. It would be naïve to think that we at MIT are somehow immune to these problems: MIT is a microcosm of our broader society. It shares many of its flaws, as well as its virtues – and we need to recognize its flaws and deal with them. To do any less would be a fundamental violation of who we are as a community.

Achieving racial equity and justice is one of the world’s great challenges. Those who protested today are asking us to take on that challenge: to listen, to reflect, to collaborate and to act.

And I look forward to working with all of you to determine the best path forward on these questions for MIT.

As we turn our attention back to this gathering, I hope we can, for a moment, simply enjoy what we have in common.

I hope we can celebrate the values and experiences that bind us together. I hope we can treat each other with sympathy, respect and kindness. And I hope we can simply appreciate the joy of each other’s company.

For that is also a path to a better MIT and to a better world.

Thank you all for coming.