22
Jun

Max_P.jpgMax Oliva, Associate Director, Social Impact Management
On June 7th, Bill Gates addressed Harvard students with an eloquent and well prepared speech on their graduation ceremony. But it was not just another speech. Referencing Marshall’s speech 60 years ago when talking about the great challenges they faced in implementing the Marshall Plan, this was intended to be a speech with just the same impact.
I truly encourage you to watch the video or read the transcript . It’s not sophisticated but rather simple and down to earth. But it is simple ideas which address complex issues those that work best. From developing a more creative capitalism which helps better address the world’s inequities, to committing ourselves and our best minds to dedicating our time and effort to solving our biggest problems, I include some excerpts of the speech, hoping they will motivate you to see/read it all.
Bill Gates at Harvard 2.jpg
“…I had just come from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love getting people excited about software—but why can’t we generate even more excitement for saving lives?
You can’t get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the impact.
…To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps.
The defining and ongoing innovations of this age—biotechnology, the computer, the Internet—give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.
You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how—in this age of accelerating technology—we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them.
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.
If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.
Let me make a request of the deans and the professors—the intellectual leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:
Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?
Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn 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?
Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged?”

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