Remarks from Regina Dugan, Virginia Tech alumna and vice president of engineering at Facebook

I’ve got four words for you today:  Buckle the hell up.

Because starting now, right here…

it’s your turn.

Your chance

to introduce the world to what does not yet exist…   

It’s why I came to VaTech…

Why I walked across the drill field.  For 8 o’clock class.  

         Freezing.  

         In the rain.  And mud.  In duck boots.

(Because that was before… walkways.)

Why I ran from McBryde to the Vet School. 

(Who thought you could do that in 10 min?)

It’s why I spent hours in CAD labs in Randolph Hall.

Learned to weld and cast and machine…

Eventually… to cross this stage.  

All of it… to get the chance.

To earn the privilege, to make something new.

The same chance you now have...

What I discovered here is that engineering, well,

it's like art.

And that artists and engineers, well,

they are more the same

than they are different.

Artists imagine new things.

They see something new.  Believe in it.  Create it.

That's what engineers do, too...

Imagine something new.  Believe in it.  Build it.

They each believe in something.  And then make it so.

In that order.

I am often asked what I think the future will look like

in 20 years.

Actually, I have no idea.

Embedded in that question is the sense

that the future is some inevitability,

and that we are passive participants…

idly watching it unfold…

But the future is not that…

The future is what we choose to make.

         And we choose to make what we believe in. 

In this sense, we are all architects and engineers,

artists and creators, inventors,

         of the future.

This is one of the hardest things we do.

Because making something new requires courage.  Bravery.

Accepting that you might fail. 

Inevitably, we have to buckle up… and decide.

Decide to try.

Because believing in something…

even in the face of potential failure… it’s difficult.

It’s difficult and it’s woven into the fabric

of all great achievements.

Sometimes the courage required is quite public.

For all to see. 

There are parades.

Sometimes it is a quiet inflection point.

That few see. 

There are no parades.

And the world is forever changed.

In 1969… we landed on the moon.

Scientists and engineers were heroes.

They built rockets and space capsules.

It was a triumph of technical tenacity and of

overcoming failure, much failure, along the way.

That same year, something else happened. 
Arguably, even more important.

On October 29th, 1969,

the first packet-switched message was sent over the     ARPANet from UCLA to SRI.

The first two letters of the word LOGIN –

an “L” and an “O” –

were all that got thru…
and then a buffer overflow crashed the system.

From that humble beginning…

the Internet became a

world-wide force.

A reflection of the human race…

a vast networked mirror of who we are

and what we will become.

We built that…

Despite the odds. Parade or not.

Someone decided to take the chance. Chose to try.

And in so doing, introduced the world

to what did not yet exist.

What you’ve probably already discovered,

is that the believing in

is oftentimes harder

than the making of.

In 2007, the VaTech Victor Tango team placed 3rd

in the DARPA urban challenge,

an autonomous vehicle challenge

to navigate an urban environment

for 60 miles

in less than 6 hours.

Easy to think that’s not so difficult…

Now...

But in 2007,

it seemed impossible.

It wasn’t at all an inevitable future unfolding in front of us. 

The VaTech team beat 80 other teams.

Perhaps more importantly…

they were a symbol of the power of making.

The kind of making that lifts us up…

that feeds the human spirit. 

Because halfway through preparation

for the competition…

The shootings happened on campus.

They had every reason to stop.

They didn’t.

Instead, their efforts became a tribute

to those who had fallen.

An illustration of the VaTech engineering philosophy…

“Hands on.  Minds on.”

They found the courage to try.  To make something real.

In honor of those who were lost.

We want to make things…
We want to make things with our hands.
We crave it.

It sparks something in us…

Feeds our desire… to create.

Heals our souls.

It’s why we root for the underdog.

Because we are unified by an understanding

of how vulnerable it feels to risk failure.

And we know, intuitively,

that it is authentic and human and scary.

To dare and dream and do.

So, buckle the hell up.

Autonomous vehicle. 

Packet-switched network.

Or spaceship to the moon. 

Whatever you dare to dream.  Do.

And that brings me to the queen

of daring and dreaming and doing.

Sheryl Sandberg.

My friend and colleague.

The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.  

A starter of revolutions.

A financial wizard, who served as chief of staff

in the United States Treasury before her 30th birthday.

Bestselling author of not one but 2 books.

Founder not one, but 2 organizations, LeanIn and OptionB.

A beating heart of Silicon Valley and beyond.

An icon to women. 

A north star for those navigating the unknown

and incredible depths of loss—

and who emerge even stronger than before.

Over the past year, I’ve had the rare privilege

of sitting 5 feet from Sheryl.

So, I know, from experience,

how inspiring it is to hear her in person. 

Ladies and gentlemen… Sheryl Sandberg.