The Greatest Speeches in History is a weekly column that compiles the most memorable commencement speeches in history with the goal to emphasize on the power of public speaking, to illustrate its importance, impact, and necessity to master.
This week we keep our focus on one very important commencement speech – Bill Gates speaks at Harvard University after he returns to the university years later to get his degree. Here are the most important outtakes:
“One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers. I offered to sell them software.
I worried that they would realize I was just a student in a dorm and hang up on me. Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready, come see us in a month,” which was a good thing, because we hadn’t written the software yet. From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft.”
“But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret.
I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.”
“Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?”
“We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.”
“Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring. If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual asks “How can I help?,” then we can get action – and we can make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares — and that makes it hard for their caring to matter.”
“The final step – after seeing the problem and finding an approach – is to measure the impact of your work and share your successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.”
“You can’t get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the impact. And how you do that – is a complex question.”
“Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?”
“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.”