Launch event for the MIT Campaign for a Better World

Friday, May 6, 2016


Good evening! What a wonderful gathering of MIT family and friends! Thank you, so much, for joining us here tonight!

This evening, we will experience a small sample of the minds and hands of MIT. Their projects and aspirations are inspiring. Yet they represent just a fraction of the tremendous depth and breadth of MIT.

The voices we hear tonight are a perfect expression of the MIT values that unite all of our voices: Excellence. Meritocracy. Boldness. Humility. Curiosity. A passion for difficult problems. And a strong desire to do good for humanity.

Thanks to the kind of talent we see and hear this evening, MIT has been, from its very beginning, a magnificent human machine for inventing the future.

With that kind of talent, we can push past the boundaries of human understanding. We make new ways of seeing, and we see new ways of making. We inspire our students – and they inspire us right back!

With that kind of talent, we can take on great challenges. And through clear-eyed, hands-on, problem solving, we deliver new knowledge, new tools, new industries, new seekers and new solutions – and we open wild new frontiers.

When we bring these superb makers and doers to our campus, when they discover this creative community that embraces them, when they inspire each other to break new ground and when we give them the resources to fuel their ideas – there is just no limit to the good they can do.

In a sense, MIT’s greatest invention may be MIT itself…an unusual concentration of unusual talent, forever reinventing itself on a mission to make a better world.

Tonight, we celebrate a Campaign to invent the answers that society needs now.     

Tonight we celebrate The MIT Campaign for a Better World.

Let’s get started!                  

                                                                    [END PART I]


 [Following the segment with Hugh Herr and a soldier whose life was transformed by a prosthetic leg Hugh invented.]

It is an amazing thing to change the life of an individual. And when doing so is also a step
on the path to changing the world, we get to witness the future – as invented by the people of MIT.  

We embark today on a bold Campaign to deliver that tomorrow, a future in which we achieve our highest aspirations for the world.

And tonight, we ask everyone here to join us in the challenge: To raise $5 billion to tackle humanity’s great global challenges, through the vision and talent of the people of MIT.

Many of you here have joined in this work already. I offer special recognition to our six Campaign co-chairs:

  • Mark Gorenberg
  • Mohammed Jameel
  • Terry Ragon
  • Art Samberg
  • Carmen Thain, and
  • Barrie Zesiger
  • To our honorary Campaign co-chairs,
    John and Cindy Reed
  • And to the Chairman of the MIT Corporation,
    Bob Millard.

Like many of you, they’ve generously given their time, insight, resources, connections and leadership.  And we are deeply grateful to them!

And they’ve given so much because they know that at MIT, resources deliver results. And they have seen that a gift to MIT is a gift to the world.

       #          #

MIT was founded to accelerate America’s industrial revolution – and it did! 

Ever since, the people of MIT have been answering the biggest questions, inspiring brilliant students and solving the hardest problems – and they have left society transformed.

I believe that research universities in the 21st century need to be leaders, not just leaders in advancing knowledge and educating students, but above all, leaders in solving problems, to make a better world.

And MIT is ready!

To the people of MIT, humanity’s urgent challenges are invitations to action:

  • We see a future where fundamental science unlocks new knowledge, and
    unleashes innovation…

Where climate change yields to climate action…

Where clean energy is as universal as the sunrise…

Where everyone in the human family can count on clean water and nourishing food.

  • We see a future where smart cities inspire wise communities…

Where we detect disease before symptoms appear…

Where a vaccine for HIV is as routine as a tetanus shot…

Where cancer is reduced to an inconvenience.

  • We see a day when Alzheimer’s itself is just a memory…

When new nano-everything solves old, enormous problems…

When good ideas don’t languish in the lab but flourish in the marketplace…

When daring companies launch thriving industries…

And brilliant design improves our lives every day.

  • We need to create a world where quality education is radically more available,
    and massively more effective… Where we offer undiscovered talent, from
    anywhere, a digital path to a future of opportunity...

  • Where millions more people have the tools to break free from the trap of poverty and achieve the dignity of a meaningful job. And where prosperity is measured, not in dollars alone, but in the currency of art and culture, and the richness of human understanding.

What would it be worth to achieve such a future?

What would it be worth to educate the young people who will lead us there?

Would it be worth committing ourselves… and finding others to join us... to make a collective investment of $5 billion dollars?

I believe the answer is, five billion times, yes!

The success of this Campaign – MIT’s success in making a better world – depends on the dedication and participation of each of you in this room.

We need your excitement. We need you to help inspire the whole family of MIT with your example. We need your financial investment, and we need you to help us reach new philanthropic leaders who share our vision of doing good for humanity.

We do need you.  But we also invite you to take a deeply meaningful ride with us: We are inviting you to join us in inventing the future.

This is the MIT Campaign for a Better World

And I can’t wait to get started! Because there are people around the world who are counting on us to succeed.

They need us – and we need them, too: their experience, their perspective, and their talent.

Because if we want to make a better world, we need to uncover the best minds and hands the world has to offer.

As we strive to make that better world, we need to join with those who share our aspiration.  Please meet one of them now!          


III. FINALE [Following video with The Beatles' “Revolution” song]

This has been quite an evening.

We have seen students who aim to change the world… and faculty who already have.

 We have seen the power of Mind…and Hand… and heart.

And now, I offer one final observation.

This Campaign is ambitious. Relative to the size of our alumni-body, it is among the most ambitious in all of higher education.

So I need you all to know that, without you, we wouldn’t be able to invent the future. 
We wouldn’t be able to see it.  We would be in the dark.  [TENT GOES BLACK]

But WITH you… [LIGHTS COME BACK UP] …we can make all the difference in the world.

So please, let us raise our glasses together!

For all that MIT has done – and for all that we will do.

Here’s to minds, hands and hearts working together.

Here’s to MIT. And here’s to the better world we will make – together!