Mark Zuckerberg gave a very rare side of his when he received an honorary degree from Harvard, 13 years after he dropped out to launch Facebook. He was very emotional and the billionaire CEO told the current generation to fight inequality.
‘Change starts local. Even global changes start small – with people like us,’ the 33-year-old told the crowd of graduates.
‘Every generation expands the circle of people we consider ‘one of us.’ And in our generation, that now includes the whole world. …But we live in an unstable time.
‘There are people left behind by globalization across the whole world. And it’s tough to care about people in other places when we don’t first feel good about our lives here at home. There’s pressure to turn inwards.’
Zuckerberg, who also became the youngest commencement speaker in the history of Harvard spoke about his college memories. He told that he was scheduled to meet the school board after developing a website Facemash, an early precursor of Facebook.
While his parents were there to help him pack, his friends threw a goodbye part, where he met his future wife Priscilla Chan.
Zuckerberg recounted: ‘In what must be one of the all time romantic lines, I said: “I’m going to get kicked out in three days, so we need to go on a date quickly.”
He joked: ‘Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.’
‘I didn’t end up getting kicked out — I did that to myself. Priscilla and I started dating.
‘And, you know, that movie made it seem like Facemash was so important to creating Facebook. It wasn’t. But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.’
Zuckerberg went on to emphasize the importance of changing the world for the better, saying: ‘I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough.
‘The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.’
He went on to say: ‘Today I want to talk about three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose: by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose, and by building community across the world.’
He encouraged the youth to tackle ‘generation-defining public works’ like stopping climate change, finding cures for diseases, and ‘modernizing democracy’ so everyone could vote online.
He even spoke about unique concepts like universal basic income, affordable childcare and universal healthcare, and building communities.
But he had to fight his tears at the end of the speech and recollected his relationship with one of his students.
Zuckerberg said: ‘One day after class I was talking to them about college, and one of my top students raised his hand and said he wasn’t sure he could go because he’s undocumented. He didn’t know if they’d let him in.
‘Last year I took him out to breakfast for his birthday. I wanted to get him a present, so I asked him what he wanted and he started talking about students he saw struggling and said “You know, I’d really just like a book on social justice.”
‘I was blown away. Here’s a young guy who has every reason to be cynical. He didn’t know if the country he calls home – the only one he’s known – would deny him his dream of going to college.
‘But he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself. He wasn’t even thinking of himself. He has a greater sense of purpose, and he’s going to bring people along with him.
‘It says something about our current situation that I can’t even say his name because I don’t want to put him at risk.
‘But if a high school senior who doesn’t know what the future holds can do his part to move the world forward, then we owe it to the world to do our part too.’