Photo Courtesy of Dominick Reuter/MIT News

Salman Khan said he spent the best four years of his life at MIT. Looking over a sea of the nearly 2,500 graduating seniors, he admitted it was MIT that has defined his life in countless ways.

Salman Khan is the founder and executive director of Khan Academy, which now boasts a library of over 3,000 videos covering everything from arithmetic and physics to finance and history. A pioneer in open education, Khan holds three MIT degrees: a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and computer science, a bachelor’s in mathematics and a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science.

Khan recounted the day he first learned about MIT OpenCourseWare back in 2001. He was working at a startup in San Francisco and when he heard the news he couldn’t have been more proud. “Many universities aspire to their students ethics; but nothing is more powerful than when they lead by example,” he said. “This in no small way inspired what has now become the Khan Academy. And now, MIT has once again put principle over profit by spearheading edX with Harvard.”

Yet, Khan admitted MIT also affected him on a more personal level, as well. Not only did his wife attend the Institute, but the president of Khan Academy was his freshman year roommate in MIT’s Next House.

After describing why he feels relationships at MIT are so able to thrive — even throwing in a comparison to Harry Potter — Khan broke down the rest of his advice, saying things like:

  • Replace the words ‘I have to’ with ‘I get to’ in your vocabulary. Smile with your mouth, your eyes, your ears, your face, your body, at every living thing you see.
  • Make people feel that you care about them. And here’s, a well, a little secret, the best way to do this is to actually care about them.
  • Make people feel that you are listening to them. Another little secret, the best way to do this is to actually listen.

He also shared a story of the night he finished watching Chariots of Fire at 2 a.m. He told his roommate the film made him feel like running. His roommate simply responded, “Don’t waste inspiration.” And so he jumped off the couch and threw on his running shoes. “If you ever feel inspired, take action with it,” Khan said. “Don’t let anyone tell you why you shouldn’t; at least lace up and give it a try.”

Fun fact about where Khan sees us in 50 years? We’ll be watching a “State of the Union holographic address by President Kardashian.” And while that may not be true, what is true is him saying this:

I can’t say this to any group of young people, but for those of you graduating today, I believe that you can have both: security and adventure. Bread on the table while taking your shots at the moon.

To read the entirety of Khan’s commencement address, you can click here. Or, to hear the audio, click here.