Excellence is a Shared Path: Working Together for Justice and the Quality of Life
Khalea Robinson, '11; Pierre Fuller, 'G
Description: In their brief remarks honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two students strike the theme of collaboration. They touch on the importance of humility and listening to one's inner voice while pursuing a shared vision of justice and equality.
When she first came to MIT, Khalea Robinson was set to become a builder of bridges and skyscrapers. "Their visibility and permanence appealed to me." But a talk she attended on some of the world's pressing problems shook her commitment to this path. Access to clean water, and other issues, should surely count more than her own private engineering goals, she imagined.
But after taking introductory courses in environmental and civil engineering, she realized that she "couldn't simply fall in line wherever there was a call, because there are so many calls, all of them worthy." Robinson felt that she should instead look for a field that would "bring forth my initiative, passion, drive, insight and courage," while also promoting justice and fairness. In a world "full of complex problems that need to be solved by many people," Robinson believes each of us "has a distinct voice that can and must be raised."
Pierre Fuller finds a model in Biblical scripture's Nehemiah, who called on his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem one brick at a time, "each man contributing according to his ability." Fuller recounts that when acquaintances call him a "genius" because he studies at MIT, he points to the help he received during his childhood in Flint, Michigan: his grandmother, a hospital cleaner; a barber friend with a drug record; and his mother -- "who guided me with equal doses of love and tender encouragement, and a wooden paddle and a backhand that would rival Serena Williams."
Just as Fuller attributes his success to a collective that made unique contributions to his upbringing, he sees the project of building a better world as a function of individuals working together in humility, suppressing personal ambitions, and "replacing a savior mentality with a serving mentality." The technological innovations MIT sees as the foundation of the future are "only a brick, a small portion of the wall that is to sustain our community." The academic elite, says Fuller, must seek solutions for communities they serve. All of us "must humble our hearts" to work for "those who come after us, as we have been served by those who come before."
About the Speaker(s): A native of St. Kitts and Nevis, Khalea Robinson has been deeply involved with social policy issues. In 2008 she participated in MIT's Presidential Policies Initiative to raise awareness among national candidates of the greatest issues facing the U.S., including education and mortgage reform. Pierre Fuller earned a B.S. in civil engeering and in architecture from Lawrence Technological University, and his S.M. in civil engineering from MIT. His current research focuses on applying computing techniques to solve problems in building construction and operations. Fuller has served as a teaching assistant at MIT, and is involved with various youth outreach programs, including MIT's STEM science enrichment program for middle school children.
Host(s): Office of the President, MIT Annual Breakfast Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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