My charge to the 2020 CS graduating class

May 17, 2020

On Resiliance, Responsibility, and Opportunity

First, and foremost, congratulations to the SCS class of 2020 and their families! Most cohorts go through CMU and only have to worry about getting through 251, or finishing your kernel or whatever project course you happen to be in, or getting your grading done as a TA. The class of 2020 not only had to cope with the normal CMU stresses, but also had to navigate three life-changing events: November, 2016; October, 2018; and the latest, March, 2020. I hate to think what 2022 will bring! More tears have been shed in my office, and in offices all over CMU over these shared events, than I can remember.

But we are not defined by these events. Rather, what defines us is how we respond to them, react to them, and move forward from them. And move forward you have! You leaned on your family, your friends, your inner drive, to see this through. And, speaking of seeing, I bet your families have new insight into what CMU is and does, and how hard these students work, and how driven they are. What used to be a convenient abstraction ("My kid goes to CMU") was now made real ("My God, you have a lot to do compared to the kid down the street!"). But that work ethic, more than anything else, except the people who support you, will get you through anything!

As Computer Science graduates, you are well equipped to help the world move through this storm. Whether that is by using genomics to create a new vaccine, or creating a privacy-assured shared communication application, or technology that will help people work effectively at a distance. But whatever you do next, realize that people matter more than technology. Now, more than ever, we need to consider the societal impacts of what we do, and appreciate and respect the people around us. And we need to use our exceptional skills to make this world that much better. I think Abinaya Rajesh said it best in the virtual degree conferral, "Your responsibility to this magical place which transformed you only ends when your successors are better than you".

My best wishes to you all as you move forward, and I look forward to seeing you in person at alumni events in the future!