Saturday, August 11, 2007

June 7, 2007

Harvard Commencement Address

by William H. Gates III

A friend forwarded me the commencement speech (see link above) by Bill Gates atHarvard.The speech blew me away and i just gotta share it in this blog.

It was an appeal for humanity. About the awful inequities in the world -- the "appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.." and how the millions of dying children and their parents have no power to save their lifes but privileged people like Harvard graduates could.

He spoke about how the barrier to change is not too little caring; but too much complexity to turn caring into action. And he offered his solutions to action before throwing some thought provoking questions on humanity which sets you pondering even if you are not the intended audience.

"Should our best minds be more dedicated to solving our biggest problems?"

"Should the world's most privileged learn about the lives of the world's least privileged?"

"Should Harvard students know about the depth of global poverty ... the prevalence of world hunger ... the scarcity of clean water ...the girls kept out of school ... the children who die from diseases we can cure? "

Even for a local graduate like myself, i think we are in so many many ways privileged and have the power to do so much more for the lesser in our society and around the world. And when you think of the millions of people just trying to stay alive, you realised how fortunate you are, to have the health and the brain, which provides you unlimited potential to pursue the many possibilities in life.

And i wonder how many of our youths and peers knew about the lives of the world's least privileged or are keen to know. Or realised how minute our problems are, when compared to these people whose dreams could be just staying alive for one more day. I am aware but do not know much myself too, but i will make an effort, by doing the first step. And that's to first really learn and see and feel the problem.

Bill Gates mentioned a message from her mom in one letter she wrote: "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." Simple words but so wise isn't it? This would be the kind of values i think our society should believe in. Responsibility, Compassion, Protection for the weaker...

He used the message to encourage the graduates to do more, to take on an issue, to not let complexity stops them, to be activists, to take on big inequities.

And he ends off by throwing an challenge, a hope, that " will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your talent and your energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest inequities ... on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity. "

It was a great inspiring speech. Go check this out.