Well, good morning, everyone.
Bob, thank you for that nice introduction.
And hello, graduates and fellow engineers.
As the chairman said, I majored in electrical engineering.
So I know what you're all thinking--
it's a shame he was never able to put his degree to good use.
I thought that was funnier than you did [INAUDIBLE]..
Let me start with the most important message
that I can deliver today--
congratulations to the distinguished graduates
of the great class of 2019.
You made it.
All those long hours studying, and in the lab, the quizzes,
the papers, and the swim tests, it was all for today--
well, that and the brass rat.
Even though I went to a school up the river,
for today's address, I wanted to feel
what it was like to be a student here at MIT.
So on my way over here, I walked through the Infinite Corridor
and elbowed my way through 100 tourists.
Did they know that Matt Damon doesn't actually
work here as a janitor, right?
Last night, I also paid a visit to one of this university's
most iconic places--
I told the graduates there that I had some good news
and some bad news.
The bad news was I won't be repaying your entire classes
But I told them the good news was
I would be picking up the tab for the next round of drinks.
That seemed to help matters.
As excited as all you are today, there's
another group here that is beaming with pride
and that deserves a big round of applause--
your parents and your families.
Some of them are sitting out there thinking,
our kids are getting a degree from the world's
most prestigious engineering school,
and yet when they come home, they
don't seem to know how to use the washer/dryer?
You've been very lucky, seriously,
to study at a place that attracts some of the brightest
minds in the world.
And during your time here, MIT has
extended his tradition of groundbreaking
research and innovation.
Most of you were here when LIGO proved
that Einstein was right about gravitational waves.
Something that I, as a Johns Hopkins engineering graduate,
claimed all along.
And just this spring, MIT scientists and astronomers
helped to capture the first ever image of a black hole.
Those really are incredible accomplishments at MIT.
And they are especially incredible when
you consider that the Wi-Fi barely works here.
For God's sakes, how many PhDs did it
take to plug in a router?
But really, all of you are a part of an amazing institution
that has proven time and time again
that human knowledge and achievement is limitless.
In fact, this is the place that proved
moonshots are worth taking.
50 years ago this month--
or next month, I guess it is-- the Apollo 11 lunar module
touched down on the moon.
It's fair to say the crew never would have gotten there
And I don't just mean that because Buzz Aldrin was class
of '63 here and took Richard Battin's famous astrodynamics
As Chairman Millard mentioned, the Apollo 11 literally
got there thanks to its navigation and control systems
that were designed right here at what
is now the Draper Laboratory.
Successfully putting a man on the moon required solving
so many complex problems--
how to physically guide a spacecraft
on a half-million-mile journey was arguably the biggest one.
And your fellow alumnus and professors
solved it by building a one-cubic-foot computer
at the time when computers were giant machines that
filled whole rooms.
The only reason those MIT engineers even
tried to build that computer in the first place
was that they had been asked to help do something
that people thought was either impossible or unnecessary.
Going to the moon was not a popular idea back in the 1960s.
And Congress didn't want to pay for it.
Imagine that-- a Congress that didn't want
to invest in science.
(SARCASTICALLY) That would never happen today.
President Kennedy needed to persuade the taxpayers
that a manned mission to the moon
was possible and worth doing.
So in 1962, he delivered a speech
that inspired the country.
He said, quote, "we choose to go to the moon this decade
and to do other things, not because they are easy,
but because they are hard."
Sorry, I didn't mean to say "hard."
I meant to say (IMITATING KENNEDY) hard.
I don't want to lose my Boston accent.
In that one sentence, Kennedy summed up
mankind's inherent need to reach for the stars.
He continued by saying, quote, "that challenge
is one that we are willing to accept,
one that we are unwilling to postpone,
and one that we intend to win."
In other words, for the good of the United States and humanity,
it had to be done.
And he was right.
Neil Armstrong took a great leap for mankind.
The US won a major Cold War victory.
And decades of scientific innovation
led to an unprecedented era of technological advancement.
The inventions that emerged from the moonshot changed
satellite television, computer microchips, CAT scan machines,
and many other things that we now take for granted--
even video game joysticks.
Yes, there really was a life before Xbox.
The world we live in today is fundamentally different,
not just because we landed on the moon,
but because we tried to get there in the first place.
In hindsight, President Kennedy's call
for the original moonshot at exactly the right moment
in history was brilliant.
And the brightest minds of their generation, many of them
MIT graduates, delivered it.
Today, I believe that we are living in a similar moment.
And once again, we'll be counting on MIT graduates-- all
of you-- to lead us.
But this time, our most important and pressing
your generation's mission-- is not to explore deep space
and reach faraway places.
It is to save our own planet, the one that we're living on,
from climate change.
And unlike 1962, the primary challenge before you is not
scientific or technological.
It is political.
The fact is we've already pioneered the technology
to tackle climate change.
We know how to power buildings using sun and wind.
We know how to power vehicles using batteries
charged with renewable energy.
We know how to power factories and industries
using hydrogen and fuel cells.
And we know that these innovations
don't require us to sacrifice financially or economically.
Just the opposite-- these investments on balance
create jobs and save money.
Yes, all of those power sources need to be brought to scale.
And that will require further scientific innovation,
which we need you to help lead.
But the question isn't how to tackle climate change.
We've known how to do that for many years.
The question is, why the hell are we moving so slowly?
The race we are in is against time.
And we are losing.
And with each passing year, it becomes clearer
just how far behind we've fallen,
and how fast the situation is deteriorating,
and how tragic the results can be.
In the past decade alone, we've seen
historic hurricanes devastate islands across the Caribbean.
We've seen 1,000-year floods hit the mid-western and southern
United States multiple times in a decade.
And we've seen record-breaking wildfires
ravage California and record-breaking typhoons
kill thousands in the Philippines.
This is a true crisis.
And if we fail to rise to the occasion, your generation,
your children and grandchildren will pay a terrible price.
So scientists know there can be no delay in taking action.
And many government and political leaders
around the world are starting to understand that.
Yet here in the United States, our federal government
is seeking to become the only country in the world
to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement--
the only one.
Not even North Korea is doing that.
Those in Washington who deny the science of climate change
are no more based in reality than those who believe
the moon landing was faked.
And while the moon landing conspiracy theorists
are relegated to the paranoid corners of talk radio,
climate skeptics occupy the highest positions
of power in the United States government.
Now, in the administration's defense, climate change,
they say, is only a theory--
yeah, like gravity is only a theory.
People can ignore gravity at their own risk--
at least until they hit the ground.
But when they ignore the climate crisis,
they are not only putting themselves at risk.
They are putting all humanity at risk.
Instead of challenging Americans to believe in our ability
to master the universe as President Kennedy did,
the current administration is pandering
to the skeptics who in the 1960s looked at the space program
and only saw short-term costs and long-term benefits.
President Kennedy's era earned the nickname
The Greatest Generation not only because they
persevered through the Great Depression
and won the Second World War.
They earned it because of determination to rise,
to pioneer, to innovate, and to fulfill the promise
of American freedom.
They dreamed in moonshots.
They reached for the stars.
And they began to redeem, through the Civil Rights
Movement, the failures of the past.
They set the standard for leadership and service
to our nation's ideals.
Now your generation has the opportunity
to join them in the history books.
The challenge that lies before you--
stopping climate change-- is unlike any other ever faced
The stakes could not be higher.
If left unchecked, the climate change crisis
threatens to destroy oceanic life that feeds
so many people on this planet.
It threatens to breed war by spreading drought and hunger.
It threatens to sink coastal communities,
devastate farms and businesses, and spread disease.
Now, some people say, we should leave it in God's hands.
But most religious leaders, I'm happy to say, disagree.
After all, where in the Bible, or the Torah,
or the Quran, or any other book about faith or philosophy
does it teach that we should do things
that make floods, and fires, and plagues more severe?
I must've missed that day in religion class.
Today, most Americans in both parties
accept that human activity is driving the climate crisis.
And they want government to take action.
Over the past two months, there has been a healthy debate--
mostly within the Democratic Party--
over what those actions should be.
And that's great.
In the years ahead, we need to build consensus
around comprehensive and ambitious federal policies
that the next Congress should pass.
But everyone who is concerned about the climate crisis
should also be able to agree on two realities.
The first one is, given opposition in the Senate
and White House, there is virtually no chance of passing
such policies before 2021.
And the second reality is we can't wait to act.
We can't put this mission off any longer.
Mother Nature does not wait on the election calendar,
and neither can we.
Our foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies,
have been working for years to rally
cities, and states, and businesses
to lead on this issue.
And we've had real success--
just not enough.
So today, I'm happy to announce that, with our foundation,
I'm committing $500 million to the launch
of a new national climate initiative.
And I hope that you will all become part of it.
We are calling it Beyond Carbon.
The last one was Beyond Coal.
This is Beyond Carbon because we have greater goals.
Our goal is to move the US towards a 100% cleaner energy
economy as expeditiously as possible
and begin that process right now.
We intend to succeed not by sacrificing things we need,
but by investing in things we want--
the more good jobs, cleaner air and water, cheaper power,
more transportation options, and less congested roads
that we can get.
To do it, we will defeat in the courts
the EPA's attempt to roll back regulations
that reduce carbon pollution and protect our air and water.
But most of our battles will take
place outside of Washington.
We're going to take the fight to the cities, and states,
and directly to the people.
And the fight will take place on four main fronts.
First, we will push states and utilities
to phase out every last US coal-fired power plant by 2030,
just 11 years from now.
Politicians keep making promises about climate change mitigation
by the year 2050--
hypocritically after they're long gone
and no one can hold them accountable.
Meanwhile, the science keeps moving the possible inflection
point of irreversible global warming closer and closer.
We have to set goals for the near term.
And we have to hold our elected officials
accountable for meeting them.
We know that closing every last US coal-fired power
plant over the next two years is achievable
because we're already more than halfway there.
Through a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies
and the Sierra Club, we've shut down 289 coal-fired power
plants since 2011.
And that includes 51 that we have retired since the 2016
presidential election despite all the bluster from the White
As a matter of fact, since Trump got elected,
the rate of closure has gone up.
Second, we will work to stop the construction of new gas plants.
By the time they are built, they will be out of date
because renewable energy will be cheaper.
Cities like Los Angeles are already
stopping new gas plant construction
in favor of renewable energy.
And states like New Mexico, and Washington,
and Hawaii, and California are working
to convert their electric system to 100% clean energy.
We don't want to replace one fossil fuel with another.
We want to build a clean energy economy.
And we will push more states to do that.
Third, we will support our most powerful allies--
governors, mayors, and legislators-- in their pursuit
of ambitious policies and laws.
And we will empower the grassroots army
of activists and environmental groups
that are currently driving progress state by state.
Together, we will push for new incentives and mandates
that increase renewable power, pollution-free buildings,
waste-free energy, access to mass transit,
and sales of electric vehicles, which are now
turning the combustion engine and all of its pollution
into a relic of the Industrial Revolution.
Fourth and finally, we will get deeply involved
in elections across the country, because climate change
is now first and foremost a political problem, not
a scientific quandary or even a technological puzzle.
Now, I know that, as scientists and engineers,
"politics" can be a dirty word.
I'm an engineer.
I get it.
But I'm also a realist.
So I have three words for you--
get over it.
At least for the foreseeable future,
winning the battle against climate change
will depend less on scientific advancement
and more on political activism.
And that's why Beyond Carbon includes political spending
that will mobilize voters to go to the polls and support
candidates who actually are taking action
on something that could end life on Earth as we know it.
At the same time, we will defeat at the voting booth
those who try to block action and those
who pander with rhetoric that just
kicks the can down the road.
Our message to elected officials will be simple--
face reality on climate change or face the music
on election day.
Our lives and our children's lives depend on it--
and so should their political careers.
Now, most of America will experience a net increase
in jobs as we move to renewable energy sources
and reduction in pollution.
But in some places, jobs are being lost.
We know that.
And we can't leave those communities behind.
For example, generations of miners
powered America to greatness.
And many paid for it with their lives and their health.
But today, they need our help to change with technology
and the economy.
And while it is up to the federal government
to make those investments, Beyond Carbon
will continue our foundation's work
to show that progress really is possible.
It certainly does deserve a round of applause.
So we will support local organizations
in Appalachia and the Western mountain states,
and work to spur economic growth,
and retrain workers for jobs and growing industries.
Taken together, these four elements of Beyond Carbon
will be the largest coordinated assault on the climate crisis
that our country has ever undertaken.
We will work to empower and expand the volunteers
and activists fighting these battles community by community,
state by state.
It's a process that our foundation and I
have proved can succeed.
After all, this isn't the first time
we've done an end run around Washington.
A decade ago, no one would have believed
that we could take on the coal industry and close half
of all US plants, but we have.
A decade ago, no one would have believed
we could take on the NRA and pass stronger gun safety
laws in states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada,
but we have.
Two decades ago, no one would have
believed that we could take on the tobacco industry,
and spread New York City's smoking ban to most of America
and to countries around the world, but we have.
And now we will take on the fossil fuel industry
to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
I believe we will succeed again, but only if one thing happens,
and that is, you have to help lead the way
by raising your voices, by joining an advocacy group,
by knocking on doors, by calling your elected officials,
by voting, and getting your friends and family to join you.
Back in the 1960s when scientists here at MIT
were racing to the moon, there was a populist saying
that went, "if you're not part of the solution,
you're part of the problem."
Today, Washington is a very, very big part of the problem.
And we have to be part of a solution
through political activism that puts the screws to our elected
Let me reiterate-- this has gone from a scientific challenge
to a political one.
And it's time for all of us to recognize that climate change
is the challenge of our time.
As President Kennedy said 57 years ago on the moon mission,
"we are willing to accept this challenge,
we are unwilling to postpone it, and we intend to win it."
We must again do what is hard.
Dammit, I meant to say (IMITATING KENNEDY) hard.
Graduates, we need your minds and your creativity
to achieve a clean energy future.
But that's not all.
We need your voices.
We need your votes.
And we need you to help lead us where Washington will not.
It may be a moonshot, but it's the only shot we've got.
As you leave this campus, I hope you
will carry with you the MIT's tradition of taking and making
Be ambitious in every facet of your life.
And don't ever let something stop you because people
say it's impossible.
Let those words inspire you, because just
as trying to make the impossible possible
can lead to achievements you've never dreamed of--
and sometimes you actually do land on the moon.
So tonight, have one more beer at the Muddy.
And tomorrow, start working on the mission
that, if you succeed, will lead the whole world to call
you The Greatest Generation II.
Thank you and congratulations.