2012 MIT commencement: Khan Academy founder celebrates 'wizards of our time'

Salman Khan urges MIT students to take action on their inspirations during

Prepared text of the Commencement address by Salman Khan, MIT alumnus and founder of the Khan Academy online education nonprofit, for MIT's 146th Commencement held June 8, 2012.

It is truly a deep honor to be here at MIT. Not only did I spend some of the best years of my life here, but it has proven to continue to define my life in countless ways. Many of you may not remember, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many corporations and universities were exploring how they could profit or protect themselves from online education. Then MIT stepped in the mix and launched MIT OpenCourseWare. As powerful as the offering had the potential to be, MIT's rationale for it was even more powerful. MIT was implicitly saying that some things are more important than profit or any strategic concerns. Even if it would cost the Institute potential revenues, MIT had the moral clarity to realize that if it could give access to knowledge to people around the world for free, it should and would.  DOUBLE DIP: Khan also gave a commencement speech at Rice University this spring http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/mit-commencement-address-212-khan-academys-founder-beauty-free-online-education I was busy working at a startup in San Francisco when the announcement came out in 2001. I had no idea then that my own life-adventure would be so closely linked, but when MIT had announced OpenCourseWare, I never felt prouder or more inspired by where I had gone to school. When others were exploring what was profitable or how to defend their existing offerings or just watched from the sidelines, MIT had the moral clarity and boldness to just do what it thought was right.  Many universities aspire to teach their students ethics; but nothing is more powerful than when they lead by example. This in no small way inspired what has now become the Khan Academy. And now, MIT has once again put principle over profit by spearheading edX with Harvard. For this and many, many other reasons, I am honored to come here and thank the institution that I love so much for reminding me through its actions what is most important.    But MIT has also affected me on a more personal level. Many of my very closest friends are alumni. My wife went to MIT. The president of Khan Academy was my freshman year roommate in Next House (Room 343). His wife went to MIT. One of our board members went to MIT. His wife went to MIT.  Of our many close friends from MIT, 90 percent are married to each other. Now, I think this many friendships and marriages coming out of one place, as romantic as the Infinite Corridor may be, begs some introspection. In fact, so extreme is the coupling that I have observed here that I have sometimes suspected that this whole place is just a front for a DARPA-funded human breeding project. However, there are simpler explanations for all of this MIT-MIT love. The most likely of which is that the admissions office here has a somewhat unhealthy habit of only accepting incredibly attractive people.  But I think it also goes still deeper than that. 

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