How do you inspire a group of unusually smart, hard working, optimistic, and largely privileged youngsters who are already destined for success? Encourage them to learn from those most in need; urge them confront inequity; exhort them channel their optimism with empathy; oh, and remind them that for all their accomplishments, they wouldn’t be where they are without a heavy dose of luck.
That was the message that philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates delivered to Stanford’s 2014 graduating class in a poignant commencement address.
At a time when inequality is becoming one of the central issues of our time, the Gateses, whose foundation has become one of the most formidable philanthropic enterprises in history, exhorted graduates to pursue a mission-driven life. While both speakers were inspiring, it was Melinda Gates who delivered the most stirring lines. Here’s she is on channeling optimism:
Drawing from her own experience witnessing abject poverty, heartbreaking disease and the ravages and stigma of AIDS in India, she later added:
And here’s the bit about luck and why it’s important:
The talk may well join another Stanford commencement address—the classic 2005 speech by Bill Gates’ longtime rival Steve Jobs—in the ranks of the most memorable ever. And it seemed especially apt for Stanford, a university that is minting innovators and entrepreneurs are an unprecedented rate. But not all successful Silicon Valley enterprises are created equal, or as the investor Peter Thiel famously bemoaned, “we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Stanford, for example, recently spawned the likes of Snapchat – disappearing messages—and Theranos—a potential revolution in healthcare. Both are successful and both are worth billions. But there’s little doubt as to which one Bill and Melinda Gates think Stanford graduates should join or try to emulate.
Get inspired and watch the full address below (Gates’ story begins at 1:10.50).