“Some people call you all nerds, and we hear you claim that label with pride,” Melinda told the crowd. “Well, so do we,” her husband and Microsoft co-founder chimed in, as the robe-donning duo proceeded to put on black glasses wrapped with white tape on the bridge.
But after the crowd’s laughter settled down, Bill and Melinda got serious about their favorite characteristic of Stanford students.
“Technology should benefit everyone.”
“It’s the optimism,” said Bill. “There’s an infectious feeling here that innovation can solve almost every problem.”
That, after all, was the same feeling that drove the entrepreneur to take “an endless leave of absence” from Harvard in 1975 to start Microsoft.
“We wanted to bring the powers of computer and software to the people, and that’s the rhetoric we used,” explained Bill of his venture with Microsoft. Years later, in the mid-nineties, he and Melinda then saw a related problem: the “digital divide” between those that could afford, and could not afford, to purchase personal computers.
Stated Bill, “Technology should benefit everyone.”
That mindset brought Bill to South Africa, where he was doing business and arranging a donation of computers to an impoverished community center in South Africa.
“What I didn’t say was, ‘By the way, we’re not focused on the fact that half a million people on this continent have malaria, but we’re sure as hell going to bring you computers,’” said Bill.
The visit helped spark Bill and Melinda’s commitment to learning about the pressing problems of the world’s poor, and doing what they could to mediate them – a mission that has since brought them around the world, including a South African TB clinic and an AIDS clinic in India, two destinations referenced in the couple’s commencement speech.
“If you want to do the most, you have to go see the worst,” explained Melinda. “Sometimes it’s the people that you can’t help that inspire you the most.”
“If our optimism doesn’t address the problems that affect so many of our fellow human beings, than our optimism needs for empathy,” urged Bill. “You can do better at this than I did.”
Watch the Gates’ inspiring speech in full below:
Image via HuffPo