Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Support our mission, shape the conversation

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Thinking back to the start of the pandemic, I am struck by the tremendous strength of our community. As of March 2020, we didn’t know what it would take to support MIT’s grand mission through this crisis. We have since found a way together and made it work. This accomplishment belongs to every member of our community – and thanks to our immense shared effort, MIT is still MIT. We move forward with the same passion for the mission of the Institute, the same distinctive practical optimism, the same look to the future. And many members of our community, including our elders, are actively pursuing research and innovation to better understand the virus and help humanity contain it.

As the United States strives to respond to the complex crises of covid-19 in the climate changeI believe our community’s perspective – analytical, practical, evidence-based and science-based, responsive to complex systems and not discouraged by difficult issues – should be very well represented in the national conversation.

Each of us can help make this happen by voting. So, I’m delighted to highlight the ongoing work of MITvote, a non-partisan, student-led organization that exclusively aims to encourage MIT students to register and vote and become civically engaged. Thanks to MITvote, from 2014 to 2018, the voter turnout of our students more than tripled. And last fall, MITvote volunteers personally emailed 7,502 MIT students who are US citizens, to help them develop a voting plan.

MITvote’s results would be impressive on any campus. But I especially admire his success because I’ve been at MIT long enough to know that sometimes people who are deeply focused on science and engineering feel that politics is not for them. They may believe it is irrational or even irrelevant, or that a vote cannot make a difference.

For those who think this way, I would like to reframe the question. When we listen to a symphony orchestra, in the midst of all this sound, adding just one instrument can be hard to hear. But when the whole brass section starts playing, that changes everything. So I hope that each of us can think of voting in this way: not as a “solo” gesture. Not like the act of a single individual who may or may not be noticed. But as a great shared civic act that we all perform together, together.

As individuals, we naturally disagree on many issues. But I am convinced that through active civic engagement, including voting at the local, state and federal levels and going far beyond that, the people at MIT can be of profound service to their communities and to society as a whole. .


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