Below is the full transcript of the commencement address delivered by Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy at MIT’s Commencement on June 8, 2012.
Announcer: It’s now my honor to introduce our Commencement Day speaker, the founder of the online education phenomenon known as the Khan Academy, Sal Khan.
Sal earned three degrees from MIT, a Bachelor’s in Mathematics, as well as a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science rounding out his education with a MBA from Harvard. Sal began his career as a hedge fund analyst. Within a few years, however, he discovered quite by accident what has become his calling. Through preparing video tutorials to help his young cousin learn math, he came to understand both his own gifts as a teacher and a great gift that he could give to the world by creating an online library of 1000s of free bite-size videos that would shed light on any topic he chose, from geometry to the GDP.
Today, the Khan Academy Channel on YouTube has more than 330,000 subscribers and has delivered more than 156,000,000 lessons and has for millions of students, replaced bafflement with understanding. For launching this revolutionary experiment in online learning, in the year 2012 Time Magazine named Sal Khan as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet. This is not the first time that Sal has spoken from the commencement stage here in Killian Court, because he also served as President of his class.
In 1998, addressing his fellow graduates, Sal said, and I quote, “It is no exaggeration to say that we will change the world.”
And having checked this assignment off his to-do list, he joins us here today. Ladies and gentleman, Sal Khan.
Sal Khan – Founder of Khan Academy
Now this is a surreal, a deep honor to be here for a whole set of reasons and as was introduced, obviously MIT has played a big role in my own life. But I think a much deeper role than many of you all might appreciate. Some of you might remember in the late nineties, kind of when the first Internet boom was happening, there was a lot of talk about online education and most of the conversation back then about online education, not too different than now, was around how to profit off it, how to make money off it.
Or some institutions were thinking about how to defend against it, or at least sit on the sidelines and see how everything played out. And all of a sudden MIT jumped into the mix in 2001, and announced MIT OpenCourseWare. That it was going to take knowledge and resources that used to be behind the walls of elite institutions and not charge for them but give them away for free to the world. And instead of saying how can we profit off of this, MIT said, “Well there are some things that are higher than that.”
That if we could empower an unlimited number of people for all of time maybe, that’s something that we would be willing to spend resources on. And when that happened I was just a couple years out of college working at a tech company in San Francisco. I had no idea that my own career adventure would lead to what I am doing now. But when I read that press release, I had never been so inspired. I had never felt so proud to come from this community.
And frankly a couple of years later, when the videos that I had made for my cousins and it became clear that people who were not my cousins started watching. There was talk of, oh well this could be a business. I was in Silicon Valley, this is what it was all about. I worked for a hedge fund, a very for profit organization. But it was the memory of how I felt the first time I read that press release about OpenCourseWare and what OpenCourseWare had become, that really gave me the clarity to understand what Khan Academy could be. That it could be this institution that could reach everyone and that should transcend ideas of profits and businesses.
And I say this not just to show the connection this had for Khan Academy, but there is a meta level idea here that these days you hear a lot of universities and institutions talk about teaching ethics, teaching morality, and instilling that in classes and they tell you to read about it, but MIT actually did it. MIT actually lived by its actions. It actually put principle over profit and it is continuing to do it.
Now with MITx now with EdX in concert with Harvard it is continuing to push the envelope. And I am just in awe, it feels like we are living in a science fiction book of what might happen in education in the next few years.
But my connections to MIT go even deeper than that. Obviously I went here, but my wife also graduated from MIT class of 2001. The president of Khan Academy and chief operating officer, he was my roommate freshman year at Next House. Room 343 for the two or three of you who might have shared that room at some point.