Talking about his departure from Harvard to found Microsoft: 'I've been waiting more than 30 years to say this: Dad, I always told you I'd come back and get my degree.' [Bill Gates Sr. was in the audience.]
'I want to thank Harvard for this honor. I'll be changing my job next year, and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my resume. I applaud the graduates for taking a much more direct route to your degrees. For my part, I'm just happy that the Crimson called me 'Harvard's most successful dropout.' I guess that makes me valedictorian of my own special class. I did the best of everyone who failed.'
'But I also want to be recognized as the guy who got Steve Ballmer to drop out of business school. [Ballmer, now Microsoft's CEO, was also there, sitting in the crowd behind Gates.] I'm a bad influence. That's why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.'...
His conclusion: "You graduates are coming of age in an amazing time. As you leave Harvard, you have technology that members of my class never had. You have awareness of global inequity, which we did not have. And with that awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with modest effort. You have more than we had. You must start sooner, and carry on longer.
Thursday, June 7, 2007