A Celebration of Jerry Wiesner, 13th President of MIT

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John Henry when we was a baby, sitting down on his mami's knee, picked up a hammer in his little right hand and that little piece of steel said, the hammer will be the death of me.

Dr. [? Wiesner ?] received his doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. It was Archibald Macleish, then head of the Library of Congress, who invited him to establish and operate a recording and acoustics laboratory within the library. And now, 30 years later, what would Archibald Macleish say of Jerome Wiesner? Ladies and gentlemen, I asked Mr. Macleish to step to the lectern.

I have called these lines speech for an occasion, the occasion obviously is this one. And I have dedicated them to the occasion of the occasion, Jerry [? Wiesner. ?] Rinsing our mouths with praise, tin cup but a line of stones spring in the cool of a mint bed. Earlier generations knew this place, made their way here, thronging. And we have forgotten it. We have kept to the streets too long, tongues stale, hearts thirsty. Oh, to praise.

God's will in the world, if we could learn it, test it on our lips with taste of praise. Why else should the world be beautiful? Why should the leaves look as they do, the light, the water? Rinsing our mouths with praise of a good man. I say what I mean. I do not say a good man in a bad time. All the times are bad when the man fails them. I say a good man at a time when men are scarce, when the intelligent foregather, follow each other around in a fog like sheep bleat in the rain, complain because Godo never comes, because all life is a tragic absurdity, Sisyphus sweating away at his stone, and this rock won't because freedom and dignity.

Oh, weep, they say, for freedom and dignity. You're not free. It's your grandfather's ich you're scratching. You have no dignity. You're not a man. You're wrapped in a vat of rewards and punishments. You think you've chosen the rewards. You haven't. The rewards have chosen you. I weep. Rinsing our mouths with praise of a good man in a time when men are scarce when the word chirps like a cricket on the cellar floor, on the damp stone, and the mind maunders.

A good man, look him there in the fog. Look, he saunters along to his place in the world's weather, lights his pipe, hitches his pants, talks back to accepted opinions. Congressional committees hear him say, and not what you think, what you haven't thought of. He addresses presidents. He says governments even now still have to govern. No one is going to invent a self-governing Holocaust. The Pentagon receives his views. Science, he says, is no substitute for thought. Miracle drugs perhaps not, miracle wars.

Adviser to presidents, the papers call him. Advisor, I say, to the young. It's the young who need competent friends, bold companions, honest men who want to run out, won't write off mankind, sell up the country, quick the venture, jive the ship.

You'll see if NBC comes in in Cambridge off that drive. It fell under Cambridge police. Let's just help each other. Greetings.

Did professor from Berkeley come to give us help?

Where' Ben?

Ben is up at the island.

Oh, up where the accident was.

One in a car.


And he will come and say what the rights are and tell them all of this-- one car, one cop. And that will be sometime within the next five to 10 minutes.

[INAUDIBLE] you'd better stay the fuck out of the way because people are going to be coming out way, OK?



You don't have to actually go out and ask every student, what's your opinion on this issue. A lot of them aren't going to have opinions on any random issue that you pick. But you've got to at least say, we are about to make a decision on this kind of thing. Anybody who's interested, please submit comments.

Now three years ago, this institute went through a big decision of should we have a medical school. I didn't know about it. I've been here five years, and all the time I was here nobody even suggested that we were going through that kind of a discussion. Why not? Why won't student--

Why, oh, why not?


If we had to answer for [? that, ?] and because we had-- it was obvious that we couldn't afford to. I made a big hell of a lot of sense to have a big exercise in frustration. Should we or shouldn't we have a medical school that we didn't have $100 million that we're going to take the bill.

The only way we could say yes is if we could find somebody who would match the government money with the promise of $50 million cash. And Dr. Killian and I just said, let's try. And then we-- and we hit five people that we knew, or six people. I don't know. And then we finally talked to [? people, ?] some we couldn't reach, who we thought were interested enough in medical schools, MIT, and the whole thing to see whether anyone was willing to say, sure. [LAUGHS] And nobody did it. This was five days after Howard became president of this institution.

Six months before, we had been totaling up the bill on what we thought it was going-- what we were going to have to raise to do the things we thought already had to be done to keep the promises that had been made, like dormitories and new buildings this time. And that came to $200 million that we didn't have. Know And I don't see why that kind of a decision has to be put to a popular referendum.

I don't think it has to be put to a popular referendum. I think you just have to say that you're making it--


Who knows? One of the students might have known somebody with $50 million in his back pocket. I mean-- I mean, that's all.

We're faced with a question of whether the decisions about today make sense for this kind of group. I think it's fine to go into the other things. But I think we also want to come to some understanding as to whether or not we're involved in a decision making process that makes sense, or is this another medical school deal?

I love this man. I rinse my mouth with his praise in a frightened time. The taste in the cup is of mint, of spring water.


Thank you very much, Mr. Macleish. And now, as chairmen of the corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and on behalf of that body, I shall proceed to induct into office our 13 presidents. Will Dr. Killian and Dr. [? Stretten ?] please bring him forward.

By the authority of the corporation and with the enthusiastic approval of the faculty, the alumni, and the student body, and of this distinguished assembly, I present into your keeping this charter of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and invest you with all of the authority, privileges, and responsibilities of the office of President. May you, Jerry, serve the Institute and dignify its office of President with all of the skill and wisdom and dedication which our confidence accords to you. And may your administration be memorable.


Thank you, MIT's bright presidents, an old friend, [? Archibald ?] [? McKleish, ?] for this honor and this challenge. And you, [? Paul ?] [? Gray, ?] as you become a legal chancellor, for being willing to share the burden and joys of leading this great institution. And a special thank to Priscilla Gray and to my wife, [? Leah, ?] for so willingly taking the plunge with us into the unknown and exciting but obviously demanding future. Dear friends, thank you all for this occasion. And I might just say in passing, Dr. Killian has made me realize that I had something to look for to-- retirement.