“This is a Glorious New Day” Remarks by President Crawley

“This is a Glorious New Day”
Remarks by President Crawley
Opening Day of Skoltech
2 September 2013

This is a glorious new day!

Almost everything around us is new. We have a new class of students —Welcome! Today is most importantly about the students and the new year.

You might even say welcome, finally. I remember as a first year student at MIT arriving and having an orientation program that lasted 10 days. At the end of the program I was ready to start classes. I realize that for some of our first students, they’ve been waiting for today for 450 days since they first came to Skolkovo last year.

On my first day at MIT as a student, there was a professor who addressed us and said, “If you want to learn how to be successful at MIT, come to my office and I’ll tell you.” He said this to 1,000 first-year students. The next day, I went to his office and said “what’s the secret?” He said, hmm now I have to think of one because no one has ever come to my office and asked.

He then said, ‘I have the secret. The secret is you never know in life what will happen.’ You’ll never know what you’ll do, where you’ll go, what knowledge you’ll use, and what people you’ll meet. So the thing to do in university is not to prepare yourself for something specialized, but to prepare yourself for life. Prepare yourself widely by gathering knowledge, meeting people and learning ideas. That is the best preparation that we can give you in a university.” So my challenge to you today is to challenge yourself to learn broadly and widely.

And challenge us. There is a famous bumper sticker of my youth that reads “Repeal Ohm’s Law.” This is about challenging authority. Help us build this place. If you see something that isn’t right, fix it or improve it. We are all learning here. You are learning about science, technology and innovation and we are learning how to build a university. We need to work together on this; help us build the university.

This is a new generation, not just a new group of students. It’s a time of transformation and transition in Russia and around the world and we want to prepare you to be agents of change in that transition. We don’t want you to be pushed along with the world. We want you to be leading the world. We want you to find things that are wrong and work to improve them. We want you to find opportunities and make them better. Churchill said, “Show me a young conservative, and I’ll show you a person with no heart.” This is not only about the brain, it is about the heart as well. You have to feel a need to improve the world and work hard to do it.

This is a new university. Everything about today is new. We have a new generation of students, a university that builds on science and builds toward innovation. We are helping to create this new university and we all have to work together to do this.

This it is not just a new university, it is a new class of universities. We are influencing the world and we are being influenced by the world. All over the world governments increasingly want to build their universities to become engines of economic growth. We are here at Skolkovo, in this wonderful innovation center that is rising around us, and we have the opportunity to be a model of this new class of universities.

When you stand at the precipice of something great, it is not always easy to know that you are there. When you stand on the precipice of something that is great and bad, you can usually tell — the beginning of a war, a terrorist act, the downfall of a government, a civil war. But when you stand on the precipice of something that is new and good it is not so clear that you are there. I have the feeling and I think that many of you in the room have the feeling today that we are at the precipice of something that is new and good.

Churchill said that the empires of the future will be empires of the mind. Of course he presided over an Empire that covered almost a third of the globe. The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. We have to prepare you and you have to prepare yourselves to build these empires of the mind and transform not only the economy but society.

This is a glorious new day!

And now it is time for us to celebrate.

In keeping with an old Russian tradition, I’ll ring the Skoltech bell to begin the new year and new university!

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