As a rule, leaders in higher education don’t expect huge crowds. But this year—thanks to alumni enthusiasm for the MIT Campaign for a Better World—we have enjoyed overflow audiences at events from New York to Hong Kong; San Francisco to Washington, D.C.; London to Los Angeles; Tel Aviv to Mexico City. At these wonderful gatherings of MIT alumni, I have been inspired by the contagious energy. And I have been reminded, each time, of our community’s distinctive character and values.
MIT is profoundly American. The Institute was founded to accelerate the nation’s industrial revolution. With classic American ingenuity and drive, our graduates have invented fundamental technologies, launched new industries, and created millions of U.S. jobs. Our history of national service stretches back to World War I; especially through the work of Lincoln Lab, we are engaged every day in keeping America safe. We embody the American passion for boldness, big ideas, hard work, and hands-on problem-solving. Our students come to us from every faith, culture, and background and from all 50 states. And, like other institutions rooted in science and engineering, we are proud to supply many of our students with a ladder to the middle class—and sometimes beyond. We are as American as the flag on the moon.
At the same time, and without the slightest sense of contradiction, MIT is profoundly global. Like the United States, and thanks to the United States, MIT gains tremendous strength by being a magnet for talent from around the world. More than 40 percent of our faculty, 40 percent of our graduate students, and 10 percent of our undergraduates are international. Faculty, students, postdocs, and staff from 134 other nations join us here because they love our mission, our values, and our community. A great many decide to stay in this country for life, as I have, repaying the American promise of freedom with their energy and their ideas. Many others settle in communities around the globe, brilliant ambassadors for MIT’s signature combination of curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving.
Together, through teaching, research, and innovation, MIT’s magnificently global, absolutely American community pursues its mission of service to the nation and the world. We should never forget that our meritocratic openness to the very best talent, and our ability to bring those brilliant minds intensely together in one place, is central to what makes MIT MIT.