Admiral William McRaven to speak at Commencement

Retired Navy four-star admiral William McRaven will be MIT’s commencement speaker May 29, 2020.

McRaven served 37 years in the military. He served as the ninth commander of the US Special Operations Command from 2011 to2014, led the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from hostage by Somali pirates during the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama, and developed the mission which led to the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden.

As a recognized authority on U.S. foreign policy, McRaven advised presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on defense issues. He served as the chancellor of the University of Texas (UT) system from 2015 to 2018.

“I am so very honored to have the opportunity to address the MIT graduating class of 2020,” McRaven told MIT News. “More than ever before, the world today needs the great minds of the talented men and women that have learned so much from this magnificent institution. I hope that my experience, in both the military and academia, will be of some value to them as they head off to make their mark in the world.”

McRaven graduated from UT Austin in 1977 with a B.A. in journalism and earned a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1991. 

UA President Mahi Elango ’20 wrote in an email to The Tech that “McRaven’s invitation affirms the long-standing relationship between MIT and the military.” 

McRaven’s comments on “issues surrounding American imperialism, patriotism, and the military-industrial complex” cause the UA “significant concern,” Elango wrote.

 Elango added that MIT is “entwined” in these issues, and the UA hopes that McRaven’s visit “catalyzes a much-needed conversation around these institutional entanglements.”

GSC President Peter Su told MIT News that he is “intrigued to hear what McRaven has to share with MIT’s graduates. His background in military service and university administration provides an interesting perspective.”

Previous MIT commencement speakers include politician and entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg (2019), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (2018), Apple CEO Tim Cook (2017), and actor and director Matt Damon (2016).