Mark Rober Inspires MIT Graduates with Commencement Speech

Sinead O’Gorman-Jones, Contributing Writer

A sunny day on Killian Court brought 3,725 MIT graduates together to celebrate their commencement ceremony. Mark Rober, NASA engineer, and YouTuber, was invited to the ceremony to deliver the 2023 Commencement Speech. His lighthearted and humorous speech detailed how, despite enduring the pandemic in the middle of their time at MIT, the class of 2023 managed to emerge with a meaningful college experience. 

“The degree you’re getting today means so much to you precisely because of all the struggle and setbacks that you’ve had to endure,” Rober told the resilient group of graduates. 

Mark Rober worked at NASA for 9 years, largely designing the Mars Curiosity rover, before spending another 4 years working at Apple. It wasn’t until 2011 that he made his first YouTube video, completely changing the course of his life. Now, he spends his time making YouTube videos for his 24 million subscribers. His videos consist of crazy experiments that relate to science, technology, and engineering. 

As he delivered his twenty-minute speech, Rober provided three main pieces of advice to the MIT graduates as they move through their next stages of life. First, he encouraged the graduates to “embrace naive optimism” as a way to try new things and not get discouraged by the possible struggles that lie ahead. “Think back on the first week at MIT, “ Rober urged graduates,

He advised the graduates to embrace failure with an open-mind set.

Next, he advised the graduates to embrace failure with an open-mind set. He commented on the power of using failure to move forward instead of letting it hold you back. Finally, he noted the importance of fostering close relationships with family and friends at every stage of life. He further remarked, “If you assume good intentions on the part of your friends and family, and you tell yourself you’re lucky to have them, your brain will naturally work to find evidence to support that.”

Many of the graduates had strong emotions about Commencement and the efforts they made to get there. Elisa Becker-Foss, graduating with a master’s degree in finance, told The Boston Globe, “ There is a legacy you feel and carry from the day itself, the speeches, and the ceremony.” Similarly, Bader Almulhim, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, told The Boston Globe, “It’s been a rough journey, and the four years have felt so long. [Because of the pandemic and Zoom] it felt much longer, but we’re finally here, and I’m so happy to have made it this far.”

Aside from delivering the Commencement Speech, Rober also held an event for 40 MIT-affiliated kids. Lucia Ochsendorf ‘26, who attended the event, told The Register Forum, “The event was really cool…We learned about his upcoming videos, how he became successful, and the mechanics behind some of his content.”

Mark Rober’s heartfelt speech at the 2023 MIT commencement has left a mark on the greater MIT community— that the university can be a place to explore the world with joy and curiosity, just as he has done throughout his own life.