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<title>Commencement Speech . Mark L. Chang . Olin College</title>
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<h1 class="remove-bottom" style="margin-top: 40px">
Faculty/Staff Greeting
</h1>
<h5>
2009 Olin College Commencement
</h5>
<hr />
<h2>Video</h2>
<ul class="square">
<li><a href="http://vimeo.com/32712724">The whole speech</a></li>
<li>Highlights from this day were captured and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/FranklinWOlinCollege#p/search/3/GO1Fgtu2WRg">posted to YouTube</a>.</li>
</ul>
<h2 >Transcript</h2>
<p>
Good afternoon. On behalf of the faculty and staff of Olin
College, I would like to welcome the family and friends of the
class of 2009 to our fourth commencement. I am honored to have
the privilege to speak to all of you today, especially our
graduates.
</p>
<p>
To be honest, I’ve been preparing this speech since I started
working here in the fall of 2004. I figured, with only
30-some-odd faculty, minus President Miller and Dean Moody,
the odds were pretty good that I’d get the gig some day. And
now, class of 2009, you have made the grave error of giving me
the podium. Hopefully, that one lapse in judgment will not be
your defining moment.
</p>
<p>
Today we celebrate your achievements as the newest graduates
of Olin College. But before we talk about your path to this
wonderful day, let’s take a few moments to hear about my path
to greatness.
</p>
<p>
Princeton philosopher Cornel West complains that one of the
worst things the older generation does is to tell the younger
generation, “Be successful, be successful, be successful, as
opposed to Be great, be great, be great. There's a qualitative
difference.”
</p>
<p>
I remember my own graduation like it was yesterday. It was a
warm May day, almost summer-like. It was 1997, the same year
that Olin received its educational charter from the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Franklin W. Olin Foundation
had just announced its ambitious plans to reinvent engineering
education on a little grassy hill right here in Needham. Olin,
as we know it today, was just a twinkle in Larry Milas’ eye.
</p>
<p>
In graduating, I realized that college, for me, was somewhat
like a train. After high school, I boarded it. Then four years
later, I got off. My dad and little sister drove me there,
dropped me off, and no one even visited for four years. After
graduation, I packed my apartment into the back of a Ford
Taurus wagon in one morning, and drove 13 hours straight, back
to Iowa City, to live in my parent’s basement. While at
college, I didn’t bring much, I didn’t take much, and I
certainly didn’t create a whole lot. I didn’t go to college
thinking that I would build the college.
</p>
<p>
I went to a good engineering school. It prepared me for
success in the workplace, and success in graduate school. It
did not prepare me for greatness. But standing before all of
you right now, I feel we could be on the path to real
greatness. In coming to Olin, for the first time in my life, I
wanted to contribute to something bigger than myself. I wanted
to be a part of creating something new, something inspiring,
something great.
</p>
<p>
Up until coming to Olin, you’d been successful. Now, as you
leave, you have the opportunity to be great. What role do each
of you from the class of 2009, play in this institution’s
unfolding story?
</p>
<p>
You are its wonderful, chewy, delicious center. You have been
here for every graduation. You have lived and experienced Olin
with every Olin student there has ever been. You are the
recorders of our living history. You are the only ones that
can tell the Candidates about the Partners. You are in the
unique position to have experienced all the changes, good and
bad, that have swept through Olin. Through its students,
through its faculty and staff, through its curriculum, and
through its institutional values. You are the inflection point
that marks the First Five Years from the Next Five Years.
</p>
<p>
When you got here, we were almost done making this place. We
were spending only a quarter of our energy on truly new
things, and the majority on refining things we had already
invented. Maybe we didn’t ask you to innovate like we did
those that came before you. Maybe you came to Olin and
actually wanted courses that were mostly done.
</p>
<p>
Regardless of why you came here, you are now in a position to
be truly critical of Olin. And critical is what we need right
now. Because changing is often harder than creating. Keeping
the good and throwing out the bad is difficult. And
acknowledging that your own creations—courses, clubs,
organizations—need fixing requires guts.
</p>
<p>
Your classmates stepped out of the bubble to find a path
independent of Olin and started the leave of absence
trend. Why? What can’t you do here? What aren’t we making
possible? Should we make you all Go Away for awhile? You
staged a sit-in demanding change to the first year
curriculum. Maybe you were right, maybe you were wrong, but it
certainly got our attention.
</p>
<p>
We need your perspective. We need you to kick our butts and
tell us what sucked. We need you to demand change and then
lead the effort to build a better Olin. Push our train off its
tracks and point us past mere success, toward greatness.
</p>
<p>
But don’t stop here. There is a real world waiting for all of
you out there, and it doesn’t need just successful
engineers. We spend a lot of our energy teaching you to be
user-oriented, to think about the person, to understand their
values. Beginning today, consider more than just the consumer,
the product, the deliverable. Redefine engineering with a
consideration for human and societal needs. As Cornel West
says, “you can’t lead the people if you don’t love the
people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the
people.”
</p>
<p>
Don’t just build. Don’t just engineer. Don’t just be
successful.
</p>
<p>
Be great. Be great. Be great.
</p>
<p>
You make us all very proud.
</p>
<p>
Congratulations.
</p>
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