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Yunus draws record numbers at MIT commencement PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus urged MIT graduates to end global poverty and save the environment, in an address that drew record crowds to the world-renowned institute's 142nd commencement, reports agencies.

"I hope you'll ... make an effort to be remembered not simply as a creative generation but as a socially conscious generation," he said in his commencement address.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston saw one of its largest crowds Saturday, as more than 10,000 students, teachers and guardians gathered at the graduation ceremony to hear the Bangladeshi Nobel laureate who won the Peace Prize in 2006.

"You are born in an age of ideas," Yunus told the graduates.

"The question I am now raising is this—what use do you want to make of them? Make money by selling or using your ideas? Or change the world with your ideas? Or do both?"

The economist who founded Grameen Bank and is recognised worldwide for his innovative micro-credit work, related his long and unconventional approach to poverty alleviation by turning "the banking system upside down" and described his many struggles along the way.

"While focusing on microcredit, we saw the need for other types of intervention to help the rural population in general and the poor in particular."

"Poverty is not created by the poor. It is created by the system. Poverty is an artificial imposition on people. Once you fall outside the system, it works against you. It makes it very difficult to return to the system," said the Nobel laureate.

Yunus stressed the importance of three basic interventions for 'changing the system': inclusive financial and social systems, information technology services, and the concept of "social business".

"We can easily reformulate the concept of a businessman to bring him closer to a real human being," said the renowned economist.

Yunus cited a number of socially motivated business initiatives and joint ventures being undertaken by his Grameen organisation in Bangladesh, including nutritionally fortified foods for the poor, hospitals, solar energy and pure water supply projects.

"Many more companies from around the world are showing interest in such social business joint ventures," he said.

Yunus told the young graduates: "Your generation can bring a breakthrough in changing the course of the world."

"You can be the socially-conscious creative generation that the world is waiting for. You can bring your creativity to design brilliant social businesses to overcome poverty, disease, environmental degradation, food crisis, depletion of non-renewable resources, etc."

Alongside around 2,335 graduating students and their guardians, almost the whole of the MIT student body and faculty turned out to hear the prize-winning economist, alternating between cheers and pin-drop silence during the speech.

MIT president Susan Hockfield introduced Dr Yunus calling on the graduating students to hold him up as a role model in establishing a justice-based society for the welfare of the country and the world.

"I can tell you very emphatically that in terms of human capability there is no difference between a poor person and a very privileged person. All human beings are packed with unlimited potential. Poor people are no exception to this rule," said Yunus.

"Your generation has the opportunity to make a break with the past and create a beautiful new world."

"There are two clear tasks in front of you ... to end poverty in the world once for all, and ... to set the world in the right path to undo all the damage we have done to the environment by our ignorance and selfishness."

"The time is right," the Nobel laureate urged.
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