MIT Commencement: A Xerox Copy

A few weeks ago, I drove out to the University of Rochester for my little sister’s college graduation, where Xerox CEO Ursula Burns delivered the commencement address in what was really a very nice ceremony. When I realized a couple days ago that Burns would also be giving the big speech at MIT’s graduation ceremonies today, I couldn’t help myself. I tweeted:

Xerox CEO to give MIT commencement address Friday. I saw her give one at U of Rochester 3 weeks ago. Wonder if MIT version will be a…copy.

God bless her, it was! Word for word, Burns’s speech at MIT was almost an exact reproduction of her Rochester address — a facsimile so good her company would be proud of it. Here’s a transcription of the MIT speech and a video of the Rochester one. Read the MIT version while you watch the Rochester video (sorry, no transcription available). Exact same!

Now it’s tough to come up with two graduation speeches in one year, so I have some sympathy. But you can’t help but wonder how students at the respective schools feel about this particular passage. Burns said, in both addresses,

“I dare say that the graduates here today are among the best and brightest that have been produced at any time and in any place in the long history of mankind.”

Oh really, Ursula? Do you just go around saying that to every group of college grads you run into? What, do you think all these kids at Rochester and MIT are the exact same? Like, you know, copies?

  • MJ

    Well, it may not be as strange as you think. Do you know who one of the big early benefactors of MIT was? George Eastman…of Rochester, NY, founder of Kodak. He was also the most generous early donor to the University of Rochester. U of R may not have the immediate recognition of MIT but it is a fantastic school, with an excellent research reputation. And…Xerox started life as the Haloid Corporation in…Rochester, NY, so it comes full circle. Maybe it’s not a copy but a kinship!

  • k

    well. if she said the students from one school was the best but left that out when she gave the speech at the other school, it was just gonna upset some ppl, wasn’t it? it’s a tough position giving the speech at two schools in the same year and trying to treat both nicely and deservingly.

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