On May 14, EFI CEO and Founder Ernest Moniz addressed 823 graduates, giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame’s 2022 graduate school commencement. He spoke to the new graduates about addressing nuclear security and climate threats, as well as technological change. Moniz recognized that many graduates don’t remember their commencement speaker’s remarks or even who the speaker was, noting that he had a “10 to the minus-15 probability” of remembering his own commencement speaker. However, he said he was still optimistic that he could at least influence the graduates’ short-term plans.
Moniz used the iPhone as an example of the speed associated with technological and associated change: “The iPhone was introduced in the middle of 2007,” Moniz said. “It literally changed society and how we live and work and play, and it has had 13 generations in 15 years, each with greater capability in more or less the same package.” He said Notre Dame graduates, through their research and analysis, are best equipped to benefit from this high clock speed change and should use this advantage to create social equity.
He led into brief remarks on major social challenges these graduates will be asked to address, including climate change, the energy transition, and nuclear deterrence. Starting with the nuclear threat, he referenced the project “Revitalizing Catholic Engagement on Nuclear Disarmament,” which the Nuclear Threat Initiative supported and the Notre Dame Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies managed. Since this project in 2014, the Ukraine-Russia conflict has elevated the global risk of nuclear weapons.
“Our job is the Jiu Jitsu move of illuminating the lack of utility of nuclear weapons, accelerating the path to nuclear weapons elimination,” Moniz said. He told the graduates that this threat falls to their generation and those who follow.
Moniz shifted to the climate crisis and the clean energy transition, a transition that requires replacing the current energy system, as well as using various technologies that both exist and are yet to exist, and that must be affordable to low- and middle-income countries. He explained that creativity is necessary to avoid social disruption: “We cannot have massive numbers of displaced workers or displaced communities if we are to succeed both operationally and morally,” he said.
He referenced Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: Care For Our Common Home” that addressed these issues, as well as two meetings held at the Vatican with the Pope, financial industry leaders, international oil and gas CEOs, and energy/climate policy leaders. From these convenings, these leaders produced two documents: one advocating for pricing carbon emissions and one on transparency in companies’ carbon performance. Moniz said these actions are not enough and that “we need to take care of the planet [and] the people and advance social equity to have success in either domain.”
Moniz encouraged the 2022 graduates to take on these political, technical, and social challenges.
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