Bill and Melinda Gates 2014 Stanford commencement speech

Steve Jobs’ Stanford’s 2005 commencement speech in which he talked how he pursued different things that interested him at a young age and later on these things enabled him achieve successful endeavours (connecting the dots). In that same speech he invited graduates to live their life not somebody else’s as the time we all have is limited.

Yesterday, Bill and Melinda Gates gave the 123rd Stanford commencement speech for the class of 2014 [~25′ from 1h04′].

Gates fortune and world fame is due to his founding of Microsoft and its subsequent success. Nevertheless, both Bill and Melinda were introduced to the audience and spoke mainly in relation to their experience as philanthropists.

My main takeaways from the speech:

  • What they appreciate most of Stanford: ingenuity, innovation, etc., but above all optimism.
  • Their quest to understanding what keeps people poor and how innovation could still solve most of the toughest problems.
  • The experiences they shared of meeting the poor and sick in Soweto (South Africa) and India.
  • “If you want to do the most, you have to see the worst”, Melinda Gates.
  • The great stigma suffered by disfavored women.
  • “We can help people if don’t lose hope… and if we don’t look away”, Melinda Gates.
  • The need for empathy to channel our optimism and innovation to solve the problems that affect millions of people.
  • The reference to luck as a main ingredient of the success we may have in life. Luck partly understood as what Warren Buffett refers to as the “ovarian lottery”. Acknowledging that we have been this lucky, the next step is to have empathy for those who were not as lucky. “That could be me”.

***

Last year, during our trip to the US West coast we spent a morning visiting Stanford University. Few months before I had completed 3 online courses from Stanford’s VentureLab platform and I wanted to visit the place.

I was very satisfied with what we saw during our visit: a campus in which any student would have loved to study. Plenty of parks, gardens, bikes, benches. Buildings, classes and labs open for anyone to come and see. Fully equipped classes with reduced groups of students. Open cafeterias with informal places to work. A huge library with study rooms and the flavour of an old place. An impressive book shop where we surely purchased some books… No need to enter into the excellence of the faculty, measured by Stanford in the number of Nobel prizes, Pulitzer prizes, National Medal of Sciences recipients, etc.

No wonder why the Gates proffer that admiration to Stanford and no wonder why students from it have that optimism.

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