34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at MIT - Rev. Ray Hammond
PRESENTER: It now gives me great pleasure to welcome the 16th president of MIT, Dr. Susan Hockfield. She will give some remarks and proceed to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Ray Hammond. President Hockfield.
HOCKFIELD: Thank you, Nancy. I come to the podium rather humbled by the extraordinary speakers and the extraordinary thinkers who have just gone before me. We talk a lot about the future being in the hands of our students. Well, you've just seen what the future looked like-- looks like, and it's very bright. To Rick, that was a magnificent performance. We all carry the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. around in our heads. And they thread themselves through our thoughts every day.
But hearing them spoken aloud, hearing them sung out to us reawakens their power. To hear them transports us back to a riveting time in American history. But hearing them in this place, sung out by a member of this community, I'm also intensely aware that we are in the present. We're in the present. And this is a remarkable moment for America too.
We are in the midst of one of the most exciting political contests anyone can remember, a contest in which two candidates, with a very serious chance of winning the presidency of the United States, two candidates are an African-American man and a woman. Who would have believe that 15, 10, or even five years ago? For those of us raised in the '50s and '60s, and there are few of us old people in the room, this is not the America in which we grew up. And thank goodness for that.
This is a different day, and we savor these political milestones. But the truth is that when you look beyond the spotlight of the presidential race, we still have a long way to go before we have a society that offers every child an equal chance to blossom, or that makes the most of everyone's talent, or that delivers on the promise that Dr. King rightly called for 45 long years ago. We have a long way to go as a country, and we have a long way to go here at MIT.
Now, many MIT administrations, including my own, have made sincere and truly earnest efforts on this subject. Yet, as a community, despite the intense, unrelenting, and committed work of many, many people, we have failed. We have failed to create the serious, meaningful change that we long for. And I can tell you that is not a result that is worthy of MIT.
If this were any other kind of problem, an engineering problem, or a scientific problem, an unsolved problem in mathematics, or a problem with national defense, we would not be satisfied with well-intentioned but only incremental progress. At MIT, in our scholarship and our teaching, we insist on innovation. We demand excellence in everything that we do. We have a spectacular tradition of solving really daunting real-world problems. And we have no patience with complacency or with conventional boundaries if they inhibit our work.
But on the question of diversity and inclusion for faculty, students, and staff, we have not yet reached these standards of achievement. We've not come close to making our community what it should be. And to borrow a phrase from Dr. King, we cannot be satisfied until we do. And I can tell you, I will not be satisfied until we do.
It's not enough to say that we're doing marginally better than our peers, which we are, but that's not enough. MIT should be the unquestioned leader, the place that sets the standard for what can be done. We cannot be satisfied until we're a community that not only seeks out diverse talents but that truly embraces and rewards diverse perspectives because we know that that will make us stronger. And we cannot be satisfied until, to everyone who earns a place at MIT, we are a community that says not "you're lucky to be here" but, rather, says "we're lucky you've come here."
Four months before the 1963 March on Washington, from his cell in a Birmingham jail, Dr. King decried the complacency of a society that indulged in what he called "the strange, irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will cure all ills." Actually, he wrote, "Time itself is neutral. Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts of those willing to be coworkers with God. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively in the knowledge that time is always ripe to do right."
It's clear from our own experience that the wheels of inevitability will not carry us to a solution on these questions. I believe MIT needs to commit itself to unprecedented, sustained, concrete action on diversity and inclusion. And I believe that the time to do that is now. We need to do it because it's an obvious moral imperative. We need to do it because we're educating students who in 1,000 ways will lead the nation. And America will soon be a place where no one is in the majority anymore.
As MIT sociologist and urban planner Xavier de Souza Briggs points out, "Interracial bonds of friendship can serve as precious bridges that not only connect individuals to opportunity but that help make our whole society more resilient and more effective." Our students will also lead in a global community. And to do that successfully, they also need the lessons of diversity, the ability to step outside their own world view, to appreciate other people's life experiences, to engage their perspectives, and to work together to weave coherent, global answers.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to make diversity work at MIT because it will simply make us better at what we do. It will make us broader and deeper as thinkers. It will make us more effective as collaborators. It will make us more creative as teachers, more understanding as friends, and wiser, less complacent, and more self-aware as human beings.
The obvious truth is that when we listen only to people who agree with us, we cease to grow. Fortunately, the reverse is equally true. A number of studies tell us that diverse teams are better at solving complex problems. Why is that? Well, because on homogeneous teams, unquestioned assumptions remain unquestioned, and everyone gets stuck in the same place. We see the dynamic power of diversity with great movements through history that the mixing of cultures and civilizations produces huge accelerations in thought and bursts of invention-- the Silk Road, the Renaissance, and America and its best moments.
When our ideas are challenged and amplified from different directions, they get stronger, and they get better, and so do we. We need to accelerate this important aspiration for MIT. Achieving that respects, welcomes-- achieving a community that respects, welcomes, and supports people from widely different backgrounds will require leadership. It will require a leadership in every school and department and at every level of the Institute.
To develop this broad base of leadership throughout MIT, we're going to try something that we haven't done before. I will convene a Diversity Leadership Congress, a group that will include all 300 or so Institutes' academic and administrative leaders. The Diversity Leadership Congress will give us a forum to learn from each other and to reflect on each other's experiences of MIT. It will give us a chance to learn together from people who have successfully built a culture of inclusion in other organizations and then to think together creatively about the next steps for MIT. From this shared understanding, we'll develop goals for changing the way we operate. And we will come away with a vivid sense that each of us bears direct responsibility for creating this kind of change.
I welcome ideas from everyone here and anyone in the MIT community as to what shape this conference will take. I don't have a fixed idea of what it will look like yet, but I do know what it needs to achieve. It needs to give us the momentum to make change happen here.
The work ahead of us will be hard, for certain, but I'm absolutely convinced that it'll be worth it. More than 30 years ago, America had another pioneering candidate for president, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. She once said, "I don't measure America by its achievement but by its potential." I hope all of you share my belief in the potential of MIT. And I hope you also share my conviction that we can and must continue working together to accelerate change.
In this new effort, I take great comfort in knowing that we are hardly starting from scratch. We are moving in the right direction. Last year, under the inspired and inspiring leadership of Bryan Nance in the admissions office, we admitted the most diverse freshman class in MIT's history. 22% of our newest undergraduates are members of underrepresented minority groups, and 9.3% are African-Americans. And as we learned from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education in a study of America's top-ranked colleges and universities, in 2007, for the first time ever, MIT earned the highest yield for African-American students. That's to say, of the African-American students we admitted to MIT, over 65% decided to enroll here. The ch--
The challenge now is to make sure that we offer those rising talents an environment where they can do their best work. Our theme today is about the importance of not only recruiting a diverse student body but, as importantly, of nurturing every student's success. As associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education, Dr. Karl Reid is increasing our impact in these areas through programs that center on an ethic of care.
I love that motto, an ethic of care. It's a beautifully simple notion that students do best when we prove to them that we care for them, and by expecting a great deal from them in return, and by offering very strong support for them in their work. Through laureates and leaders, for example, the OME identifies minority students with graduate school interest and potential very early in their time here at MIT and then helps them build the trajectory of experience and achievement to carry them through to their goals.
I also want to call out the work going on in the School of Architecture and Planning where, last spring, Dean Adele Santos and Dr. Robbin Chapman-- Dean Adele Santos asked Dr. Robbin Chapman to serve as the school's first-ever manager of diversity recruiting. Together, Dean Santos and Dr. Chapman are pioneering an aggressive effort to bring underrepresented talent into the school to help this new talent thrive and to step up education, awareness, and dialogue around diversity. Dean Steven Lerman and Assistant Dean Christopher Jones are also ramping up the efforts in the Office of Graduate Students.
After being redesigned in 2004, the MIT Summer Research Program, or MSRP, is beginning to hit its stride. Last summer, MSRP brought 61 promising juniors and seniors to our campus. Of the 33 MSRP students applying to graduate school, 28 applied to MIT. 13 were admitted, and 11 will join us here in Cambridge next year. Based on this success, Steven is working to expand the program even further.
As for the faculty, Professor Paula Hammond is heading up a committee convened by the provost for the MIT Initiative on Faculty, Race, and Diversity. She and her faculty colleagues have assembled a research team, which is well into its quantitative research and is now planning the protocol for upcoming interviews. We can expect an extremely thorough and revealing study when their work is done.
And Professor Wesley Harris has just assumed the newly created position of associate provost for faculty equity. Together, he and Professor Barbara Liskov will lead MIT's new focus on faculty, diversity, and gender issues across the Institute, including the recruitment, and retention, promotion, and career development of minority and women faculty. To all the people whom I've mentioned, and to many, many more who are working very hard on diversity and inclusion at MIT, I say simply, thank you. You have made deeply important contributions to this community, and you've also taught me a great deal personally. I'm enormously grateful for the opportunity to work with you together on the challenges that lie ahead for all of us.
You know, at one time or another, all of us here, each of us, made a decision to come to MIT. We came here because we recognized in this one of a kind community qualities and values that create an extraordinary environment for doing the work we love. MIT is a place that goes out of its way to embrace new ideas and surprising perspectives. It's a place for people who get excited when you raise the bar. And if you don't do it for them, they'll raise the bar for themselves. It's a place where we embrace our responsibility to solve real-world problems. It's a place in which we're only truly happy when we're blazing an unexpected trail. This is the MIT that brought us together. This is the MIT that it can inspire the next generation. And this is the MIT that will make a difference on the urgent challenge of diversity and inclusion. In our efforts together, we cannot be satisfied until we have made MIT a place where every young person who wants to change the world wants to come and where all of them feel that they belong. Thank you all very much.
It's now my enormous honor and extraordinary privilege to introduce someone with a great deal of experience creating change against the odds. To name only three of his roles as a leader in greater Boston, the Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond is the founder and senior pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is also chairman and co-founder of the Boston's Ten Point Coalition. And he also serves as chairman of the Boston Foundation. Together and separately, Dr. Hammond and his wife, Dr. Gloria White Hammond are human connectors, human catalysts. The kind of people who are the life force of our communities. Both of the Dr. Hammond's have also been guides and inspirations to me.
Dr. King once defined faith as taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. Dr. Hammond's life beautifully illustrates the power of that idea. Over and over, he's had the courage to start climbing. And in his perseverance, creativity, and wisdom, the rest of us can find the inspiration to make our own climbs as well. Please join me in giving our warmest welcome to the Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond.
HAMMOND: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
HAMMOND: That's a pretty good start, especially for people who are only half awake. But we've had a good breakfast and a little coffee, so I think we're making some progress. I have been so excited about being here today with you. I've been looking forward to this for many, many, many, many weeks. This is very much a coming home. And I need you to take out your pen and make a little correction in your program. Because, and this is no fault of those who put the program together, I failed to really emphasize it as I should have, but following my name there should be apostrophe 75, as a graduate of the first class of HST here at MIT.
So this is very much a homecoming for me after 33 years. I have been back since then, but since 33 years since being a student here. Let me express my thanks to President Susan Hockfield for hosting this breakfast and really extending this invitation through my friend and colleague, Carl Reid. To all the members of the MLK Subcommittee for putting together an extraordinary event. This is a wonderful turnout in attendance. There's so many friends here that if I start calling names, we'll be here all morning. So I won't call anyone's name, other than to say I love all of you and a shout out.
And finally, I do have to acknowledge one friend, and that's Dr. Thomas Byrne, who is the husband, of course, of President Hockfield. In the tradition out of which I come, he would be known as the first gentleman. And I didn't know if I would live long enough to see that at MIT. I did have the pleasure of attending last night's dinner to honor five individuals who really embody that spirit of serving what Martin Luther King called the beloved community. And to my joy, I knew three of them. Xena Queen a Cambridge community activist and fellow member of that community of faith, called St. Paul AME Church in Central Square. Leo Osgood, a leader of OME. And Michael Feld, with whom for a brief moment I was a fellow student in the karate class taught by Sensei Ron McNair, and for a lifetime, fellow admirers of Dr. Ron McNair. And my congratulations also go out to Ali and to Laura Lein.
Now after President Hockfield noted the difficulty of this, but after her, it really gets even more difficult, Jamira and Kweku and Tarek have really gotten us going this morning. And I sort of feel like after their brilliant and eloquent presentations, and then President Hockfield getting up and laying out all of these wonderful initiatives, I really should just take the offering, pronounce the benediction and let us all go home. But I'm going to try to add some value to the morning. But I can only do that if you follow along with me by participating in what I call the interactive tradition of the African-American church.
It's both a combination of call and response, and you feel free to respond if what I'm saying may be hitting some issues or nerves that you think are important. But it's also interaction with the people that you are with. So from time to time, I'm going to ask you to just turn to your neighbor and say some things to him. But that means you've got to sort of break through the New England tradition. So we're going to just practice that a little bit in the following way. I want you to turn to your neighbor, look at them, really look at them.
You couldn't even do it without laughing, see. Now, here's what you do, I want you to turn your neighbor and tell them you look friendly.
AUDIENCE: You look friendly.
HAMMOND: All right now, tell your neighbor, tell your neighbor, I'm confident you've had your shots. Amen? All right, and then finally tell them, so we can communicate.
AUDIENCE: So we can communicate.
HAMMOND: OK, so I want you to turn to your neighbor and ask them this question, where do we go from here?
AUDIENCE: Where do we go from here?
HAMMOND: And turn to the other neighbor and tell them, where do we go from here?
AUDIENCE: Where do we go from here?
HAMMOND: All right. Mindful of the fact that you've got other things to do this morning, I'm going to promise you what Elizabeth Taylor promised the fifth of her seventh husbands and that is that I'm not going to keep you long.
Just long enough to ask you to remember with me these words, we shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday. That was the song of the '60s. It was sung in segregated schools and on integrated picket lines. It was chanted in sanctified church pews and on secular bar stools. From the backwoods of Mound Bayou, Mississippi to the towering projects of Chicago, Illinois, folks were singing about overcoming some day.
The lyrics affirmed a dream for mothers, whispering background music to the cries of their sun-kissed babies. Those same lyrics confirmed a reality for mourners singing at the grave sites of countless individuals, mostly black, some white, who sacrificed their tears, then their sweat, and finally their very blood to die for that dream. We shall overcome someday.
We're here this morning to celebrate the life of a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. A man who was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th, 1929, the son of Martin Luther King, Sr, a prominent Baptist pastor and mother Alberta King. A bright young man who entered Morehouse College at age 15 and had received his PhD from Boston University by age 26. A man who could have chosen a secure and prosperous life as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama with the full assurance that he would succeed his father as the prestigious pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
He could have led a quiet life of prestige and financial security as a leading pastor and local community figure. Or even a college or seminary professor, cloistered in the security of the ivory tower. But when a tired black woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white patron on the bus, the call went out for a coordinator and leader. Martin Luther King answered that call. And for the remainder of his life, he was caught up in the task of setting the captives of American society free.
He went on to become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. And in 1968, at the young age of 39, while leading Memphis garbage workers in a strike for decent wages, he was cut down. Even those who supported him in words only, or who disagreed with him ideologically, could not deny the pivotal role he played in bringing African-Americans out of the basement of American society. By his life and leadership, he demonstrated that the power to bring about change belonged to all people, including those of African descent. That the forces of evil are not always triumphant. And that one need not become like one's oppressor in the course of fighting oppression.
Indeed, the importance of Martin Luther King goes far beyond the gains won for people of African descent in America. He should be as much remembered for the fact that he called America, and indeed all humankind to task for failing to live up to its ideals. He should be remembered because he began with the pursuit of civil rights, moved to the pursuit of human rights, and along the way, helped to set in motion a movement that continues to bear fruit for people of other colors, women, the disabled, and oppressed people around the world. His was a life that made a difference for all people. Whether they were sharecroppers struggling for the right to vote, children fighting for the right to a decent education, garbage workers striking for decent pay, African freedom fighters struggling against colonialism and apartheid, Irish marchers for equality in dairy, or people standing before the shattered ruins of the Berlin Wall singing We Shall Overcome.
Six or seven years ago, I had the opportunity with the City to City Exchange to go to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Amazing city. What they called "The Troubles" had wracked that place for decades. But it was a battle that had really been going on for 800 years. One of the most poignant moments was standing in a vacant lot with a former IRA man named Liam, who had decided that he would trade in his bullets and bombs for reconciliation and peace work, bringing together communities that he had formerly fought against.
And he said, I want to take you to see something, Ray. And as we went back to his home, which was on one of the lines, and across which Molotov cocktails used to regularly come, we rounded a corner only to see this huge mural on this wall in this vacant lot. And it was a picture of Martin Luther King with the words "injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere." It's fitting and right that we honor his memory, not simply with flowery words and praise of a leader now dead, but in an honest look at the state of his dream and the condition of those who are still living.
So here we stand at a time, 387 years after blacks were first brought to the shores of America as slaves, 231 years after the founding of the American republic, 145 years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, 54 years after a landmark ruling Brown v. Board of Education, and 44 years after King declared "I have a dream." And the question we must ask ourselves is, where do we go from here?
It's a timely question, for there's no doubt in my mind that were Dr. King alive to see this day and time, he would be amazed, amazed that those shut out of the economic and political mainstream of America for centuries, blacks, and Hispanics, and women have in growing numbers moved into positions of decision making and power that were undreamed of in his day. Senators, representatives, cabinet secretaries, presidential candidates, mayors of major cities, CEOs, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, foundation presidents, school superintendents, just to name a few.
He would be flabbergasted by the thought that the front runners and only contenders for the Democratic nominee for president of the United States are a black man and a white woman. Don't tell me that God doesn't have a sense of humor. He'd be amazed that America's middle class has become integrated to a degree considered radical and revolutionary in his day. Amazed that students of color have been admitted to institutions like MIT in the numbers that they have. He would be amazed by the impact of a movement begun by himself, and a host of freedom fighters, most of whom remain nameless.
But I'm also sure that if he were here, he would agree that the most pressing matter is not simply commemorating his life, nor remembering the Civil Rights Movement, but asking ourselves this question, in the face of continuing challenges, unaddressed problems, and new crises, where do we go from here? Now, this is always a ticklish subject. How do we acknowledge the reality of past and present discrimination and opportunities and resources without getting into whips and leather, the guilt game, and contests to decide which group has been more victimized?
Is it possible to remember and address our history so that we are not, as George Santayana warned us, destined to repeat its mistakes while not becoming trapped by that history in a never ending cycle of recrimination and denial. Where do we go from here? That was the title of the book that Martin Luther King published in 1967, the year before his death. At the time that he wrote the book, the Civil Rights Movement was at an important crossroads. It was under pressure from whites who argued that the gains already realized were sufficient and that it was unrealistic and unnecessary for blacks to press any further claims.
On the other side were blacks who argued that the pace of progress was far too slow. And that the time had come to struggle by any means necessary, including violence. The former accused King of being too militant and a rabble rouser. The latter accused him of being too conservative and an Uncle Tom. The question was timely then and it's timely now. It's the question that I ask of myself as a leader in the faith community and the philanthropic community every time I recall the statistics around me. It's the question that I'm forced to confront when I remember the words of a young drug dealer who became my mentor as we were confronting violence on the streets of Boston. And skeptical of the real intentions of the church, he asked me, "Pastor Hammond, why should I be on the bottom of your hustle, when I can be on the top of my own?" Where do we go from here?
It's the question that I raised to this gathering of elite academics and students this morning in general and my Alma mater, MIT, in particular. In a globally interconnected, shrinking and increasingly diverse world, where does the university, research university, and this research university go from here? As the barriers fall and the glass ceilings are shattered in the private and public sector, where do we go from here? In what many have called the post Civil Rights era, what do we really mean when we talk about ensuring educational access our opportunity, our challenge? Where do we go from here?
Now I don't need to tell you that the debate over diversity remains contentious at best and divisive or polarizing at worst. Whether we talk about it under the rubric of affirmative action, multiculturalism, transculturalism, set asides, of affirmative opportunity, there tends to be much heat and often little light in discussions around this subject. Let's begin by acknowledging that while there are certainly people who are racist, sexist, or classist, there are also many people who are not captive to any of those isms, and who yet remain troubled by what they see and hear whenever the discussion or policy deliberations turn to the subject of diversity.
What they see is the potential for, if not the reality of reverse discrimination. That is, doing now to others in the majority what was once done to those in the minority. What they hear is the lowering of standards, playing fast and loose with competencies and qualifications for the sake of a numbers game. What they envision is the nightmare of social engineering, attempting to change human relationships by law, or regulations, or policies. But is it reverse discrimination to nurture the interests of youth and to search for the best and brightest among people of every race, ethnic background, and gender? Especially those to whom the world of science and technology have been an invisible kingdom? I don't think so.
Is it a lowering of standards to consider not only standardized test scores and grades, but recommendations and evidence of performance in the lab? I don't think so. And finally, is the quest for diversity with excellence an example of social engineering, or is it instead the kind of social engagement that characterizes a community, a nation, a profession, and a university at its best? Let me quickly suggest three reasons for strengthening our commitment to ensuring educational access at every level of the research university.
Succinctly stated they are, pipeline, pedagogy, and policy. Tell your neighbor, pipeline-- pedagogy-- and policy. I'll let you in on a little secret. Black preachers sort of have an alliteration thing. But I promise not to rhyme at all in this entire speech. By the middle of the 21st century, it is projected that there will be no majority population in the America. Non-Hispanic whites will be 50% or less of the nation's citizens. Because of differences in birth rates and immigration patterns, we are becoming a more diverse nation day by day. That's true of Boston, a fact which is utterly astounding to me.
I came to Boston in 1967 from the city of Philadelphia, where people of color rule the subways. I got on the blue line at Logan Airport, discovered I was the only person of color on the train, and immediately wondered what planet I had landed on. 40 years later, there is no racial or ethnic majority in this city. What implications does all of that have for replenishing the ranks of science and technology? What I know is what I learned from a group of kids who I was working with in a dropout program in Detroit in the early '80s. And that is, what they see often tells them a lot about what the universe of their possibilities is.
Let me be clear, no one should ever suggest that only blacks, or Hispanics, or women can or should be the role models for young blacks, Hispanics, or women. It does appear, however, that at least two things may be true. The first is that the presence, advocacy, and decision making power of minority members within a professional setting can help to sensitize that profession to needs of other minority members. The second is that minority professionals play a vital, though not exclusive, role as mentors and role models in overcoming one of the major obstacles to recruiting other minority members to that profession, and that is the pool of interested, available, and qualified minorities.
If the recruitment of the best possible pool for the future of science and technology is the goal, can we afford to overlook the need to increase diversity in the ranks of its practitioners? I don't think so. Nor is the pipeline the only issue. There's the matter of pedagogy. Mano Singham reports the following in his wonderful article entitled, "The Canary in the Mine, The Achievement Gap Between Black and White Students in Phi Delta Kappa." He said one study, originated around 1974 at the University of California, Berkeley, and it was the result of an observation by a mathematics instructor named Uri Treisman.
Treisman noted, as had countless other college instructors, that black and Hispanic students were failing in introductory mathematics courses in far greater numbers than were members of any other ethnic group and were thus more likely to drop out of college. This occurred despite remedial courses, interventions, and other efforts aimed directly at this group. Treisman inquired among his colleagues as to the possible reasons for this phenomenon and was given the usual list of suspect causes. Black students tended to come from homes characterized by more poverty, less stability, and a lack of emphasis on education. They went to poorer high schools and were thus not as well prepared. They lack motivation, and so forth.
But rather than accept this boilerplate diagnosis, Treisman applied the scientific method and actually investigated to see if it was true. He found that the black students at Berkeley came from families that placed an intense emphasis on education. He discovered that there was also a wide diversity among them. Some came from integrated middle class suburban neighborhoods. Others from inner city segregated ones. What he then did was to narrow his investigation to just two groups, blacks and high achieving ethnic Chinese minority.
He discovered that while both blacks and Chinese socialize with other students in their group, the Chinese also studied together, routinely analyzing lectures and instructors, sharing tips, and explanations, and strategies for success. They had an enormously efficient information network for sharing what worked and what didn't. If someone made a mistake, others quickly learned of it and did not repeat it. In contrast, the black students partied together, like the Chinese, but then went their separate ways for study. This tendency resulted in a much slower pace of learning, as well as the suffering that comes with having to learn from mistakes.
Black students typically had no idea where they stood with respect to the rest of the class. And were usually surprised by the fact that they receive poor grades, despite doing exactly what they thought was expected of them. Treisman then went one step further. He addressed this problem by creating a workshop for his mathematics students. In these workshops, students were formed into groups and worked on mathematics problems together. Discussion and sharing of information were actively encouraged and rewarded. By this means, he sought to introduce to all of his students, not just those who happen to chance upon this effective strategy, the value of group academic effort and sharing as a method of achieving academic success.
One notable feature of this experiment was that the working groups were mixed ethnically and in terms of prior achievement. The second noteworthy feature was that the students were given very challenging problems to work on, much harder than the ones that they would have normally encountered in the regular course. The ethnically mixed nature of the groups avoided the perception that this was a remedial program aimed at blacks. While the explicitly challenging nature of the problems posed to the students meant there was no stigma attached. Failure was simply due to the difficulty of the problems, not to membership in an ethnic group that was assumed to be incapable of achieving academic success.
In addition, when students did succeed in solving a problem, they experienced a sense of power at having achieved mastery of something difficult. What Treisman found was that as a result of his workshop, black students' performance improved by as much as one letter grade. This is a model now being used by OME in its seminar Excel Freshmen Program. It's a model that becomes even more interesting in the light of the research that President Hockfield quoted by Scott Page, whose mathematical modeling and case studies demonstrate that diversity in staffing can produce organizational strength. It's a model that suggests we are cheating all of our students when we fail to work hard at developing diversity in the research university.
Finally, there's the realm of policy, social policy in particular. Because scientists are more than the discoverers of new knowledge and ways to apply that knowledge. They are integral to the discussion of how and why that science and technology should be deployed. They should be a part of the discussion about global warming and how to weigh the prior and ongoing damage done by developed countries in Europe and North America versus the growing damage being done by developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. They should be part of the discussion about the allocation of scarce technological resources, whether they be advanced AIDS drugs or funds for promising areas of research.
They can not be the sole arbiters of such questions. But neither can they abdicate the responsibility for dealing with these questions and delegate such matters to civic and governmental leaders. Scientists and engineers must be educators, and debaters, and advisors, and sometimes deciders. What they cannot be are monolithic, mano, or biracial and unrepresentative guardians of information and wielders of authority. Such a state of affairs is growing to be as untenable in science and technology as it is in politics and business. Pipeline, pedagogy, and policy.
Now I've raised more questions than I have provided answers, but these questions, though difficult, are unavoidable. I'm reminded of the story of two hunters who flew deep into remote Canada in search of elk. Their pilots seeing that they had bagged six elk told them that the plane could only carry four elk. But the plane we had last year was exactly like this one, the hunters protested, the horsepower was the same, the weather was similar, and we had six elk then. Hearing this, the pilot reluctantly agreed. They loaded up, took off, and sure enough, there was insufficient power to climb out of the valley with all that weight, and they crashed. As they stumbled from the wreckage one hunter asked the other if they knew where they were. Well, I'm not sure replied the second, but I think we're about two miles from where we crashed last year.
As a society, we know very well how to crash. We know how to live in a state of denial and wait for somebody, anybody else, to provide the answers. We know how to tolerate situations of inequity and to try to put the best face on them as the way things are, or the way that God intended them to be, or the fault of those not as gifted as ourselves. My hope and prayer is that as a nation which has gone through a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement, we can make a firm, moral, and practical commitment to opening the doors of opportunity ever wider to a growing circle of people.
I am a product of that opportunity extended and opportunity seized. Lured by the prospect of a program that offered a graduate school approach to medical education, I became a member of the first class of the Harvard MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. It was in that setting that I got my business exposure to the rigors of scientific thinking and research as applied to human physiology and human disease. It was also the venue in which I was challenged to think about health economics, and health policy, and medical ethics.
I didn't get a PhD. But I did use the knowledge I gained in the practice of medicine for more than 15 years. More importantly, that training and discipline continues to directly inform and effect my work in supporting AIDS work in West and East Africa, as well as health care reform in Massachusetts, where I've had the privilege of working on universal health care. That training and discipline informs and affects my work in community safety and youth violence, arenas in which I, along with others, continue to push the research, policy, and programs that can address not just high risk youth, the symptoms, if you will, but high risk families which are the vectors for a variety of societal and personal diseases, including poverty, mental illness, unemployment, family breakdown, substance abuse, and domestic violence, just to name a few.
The only thing more dysfunctional than the families from which many of my youth come is the dysfunctional bureaucracies filled with good hearted people with good intentions that spend far too much time mopping up the water on the floor and far too little time turning off the tap that's making the sink overflow. I've learned over the years that it's much easier to mediate between warring gangs than it is between state bureaucracies. It's my blessing to use my training in learning how to think in arenas far and wide. Many of my classmates and those who followed, including that small number of students of color, have gone on to do exciting work in science and technology. I'm proud to be a part of that cadre. And now my hope is that that cadre will increasingly reflect the country and the world it serves.
I remain unshakable in my conviction that we can go forward as a learning and learned community, and we can go forward as a nation. We really can go forward if everyone, black, and white, and Hispanic, and Asian, and male, or female can become as preoccupied with their responsibilities toward others as they are with their rights for themselves. We can make that step forward if we echo the words of Martin Luther King, who warned many years ago, "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children." It would be fatal for the nation and for this institution to overlook the urgency of the moment. Where do we go from here?
The choice is ours. It's ours to choose whether we remove the yoke of oppression and become what Martin Luther King called drum majors for justice. It's ours to choose whether we are paralyzed by fear, or the enormity of the task, or are energized by a faith in God and in one another. Where do we go from here? It's ours to choose whether the gifted and blessed among us are willing to share their resources with those less blessed. Our to choose whether we will simply be doctors, or more powerfully ministers of healing, simply lawyers, or more powerfully ministers of justice and reconciliation, simply business women and businessmen, or more powerfully guardians of the Earth's resources, both renewable and non-renewable, human and material. Ours to choose whether we'll be politicians and policy makers, or more powerfully public servants who model the ideals of servant leadership.
Whether we will be people of integrity and vision that is broader than the results of the latest polls or the current thinking. Whether we will simply be teachers, or more powerfully educators who impart learning about life in all of its wonder and inspirors us of another generation. We get to choose whether we will combine the music of slaves in the 19th century with the words of freedom marches in the 20th century and sing as we travel through the 21st century, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn us around."
This is the faith we must take with us as we do our work each day and as we forge a new vision for America in the 21st century. Choosing this course will take vision. It will take faith. It will take hard work. But if, as one people, black, and white, and brown, and red, and yellow, and rich, and poor, and male, and female, and young, and old, and immigrant, and native born, scientists, and artists, engineers, and politicians, if we choose this course in faith we shall really overcome. Thank you.
PRESENTER: Please join me in thanking Dr. Ray Hammond for his heartfelt words.
Thank you very much, you have truly been inspirational. Now, please join me in welcoming Provost Rafael Reif, who will now recognize the 2007-2008 Martin Luther King, Jr visiting professors and visiting scholars. Provost Reif.
RAFAEL REIF: Good morning. What an inspiring morning we have had so far. Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond, thank you very much for inspiring, thoughtful, and challenging speech. And thank you, truly, for all you do for our society. MIT established that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visiting professor program to enhance and recognize the contributions of outstanding scholars. The program honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by increasing the presence of scholars at MIT. Since the first appointments in 1995, over 45 visiting professors and scholars have been appointed.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visiting professors and scholars enhance their scholarship through intellectual interactions with MIT peers and enrich the intellectual life of MIT with their participation in MIT research and academic programs. They are chosen for their contributions to their professions and their potential contributions to the intellectual life of MIT. The program is open to individuals of any minority group, with an emphasis on the appointment of African-Americans. And from now on, this program will be under the direction of Professor Wesley Harris in his new role, as Susan mentioned this morning, of Associate Provost for Faculty Equity.
Let me now introduce our MIT MLK visiting professors and scholars this year. Some of them are here, some of them had other commitments. I will emphasize those who are here with us this morning. Let me apologize in advance for my I'm sure mispronouncing some of those names in a moment. Let me start with Dereje Agonafer, Mechanical Engineering, Dereje, please.
After earning-- you have to stand up, because I'm going to embarrass you for a moment. After earning his PhD from Howard University, Dr. Agonafer joined IBM, where his primary focus was in the development of thermal management for electronic systems. In '99, Dr. Agonafer joined the faculty at the University of Texas as Director of Electronics, MEMS and Nanoelectronics Systems Packaging Center. Dr. Agonafer is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received numerous awards, including the Howard University and the University of Colorado Boulder distinguished alumni awards. Thank you, Dereje.
Among those who are not joining us this morning, due to other commitments, are the Tewodros Amdeberhan, from Mathematics, Don Byron from Music and Theatre Arts. I must say that my office loves the music of Don Byron. And I get to hear it quite frequently at the office. Ana Castillo, from Writing and Humanistic Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. William Harris, from Urban Studies and Planning. And we have here the next one, professor Dale Joachim. Dale, would you please stand up?
Dale is from the Media Arts and Sciences Program. He earned his masters and PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan State University. He has taught computer architecture, digital logic, and speech processing courses at Tulane University, while pursuing research in set-membershp filtering theory, sound classification, and spatial tracking. Prior to joining Tulane, he held positions at Sanders Lockheed Martin and Zenith Data System. He is researching technologies that permit the observation of natural environment. Thank you.
The next two visiting professors are not here without us this morning-- Ainissa Ramirez, Material Science and Engineering and Dwight Williams, Nuclear Science and Engineering and Political Science Security Studies Program. Let me just move briefly into our MLK visiting scholars. Let me start with one name that I can pronounce comfortably, Melissa Blanco Borelli.
Music and Theatre Arts. Dr. Blanco Borelli graduated from Brown University with a double major in music and international relations. After receiving an MA in communication management from the University of Southern California, she attended the UC Riverside campus where she received her PhD in dance history and theory. She served as adjunct professor in UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures. And she has also been adjunct faculty in the dance department at Citrus College. Dr. Borelli's scholarships, and I'm quoting, endeavors to demonstrate how dance and theories of the body provide new methodologies for inquiries into issues of identity, such as nation, gender, and racialization. She will be giving a performance and lecture on April 11th, in a place to be announced. Thank you, Melissa.
Among scholars who are not here this morning, I would like to mention Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Music and Theater Arts, Frank Espinoza, also Media Arts and Science and Writing Program, and Eugene Gus Newport, Urban Studies and Planning. And let me conclude with a scholar who is here with us this morning, Wilton Virgo from Chemistry. Wilton--
Dr. Virgo earned his first degree in chemistry at Princeton University. He was a professional associate at Brookhaven National Lab and did his graduate research at Arizona State University. At ASU, Dr. Virgo was the recipient of numerous honors and awards. He arrived at MIT in January '06 as a postdoctoral associate and then became a postdoctoral fellow and MLK scholar. His research at MIT is in establishing new class of molecular beam spectroscopy. He has published extensively in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. And while here, he has developed international collaborations with researchers in Japan, Switzerland, and Egypt. Thank you, Wilton.
Let me just conclude by congratulating all our MLK visiting professors scholars and by thanking them for choosing MIT and spend some of their professional careers to enrich our community. Thank you.