Bill Gates is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is best known as the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation.
Following is the full text [Verbatim transcript] of Mr. Gates’ commencement speech delivered at Harvard on June 7, 2007.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Bill Gates Harvard Commencement 2007
President Bok, former President Rudenstine, incoming President Faust, members of the Harvard corporation and the board of overseers. Members of the faculty, parents and especially the graduates.
I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this: “Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.”
I want to thank Harvard for this honor. I’ll be changing my job next year and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my resume.
I applaud the graduates for taking a much more direct route to your degrees.
For my part, I’m just happy that the Crimson called me Harvard’s most successful drop out.
I guess that makes me valedictorian of my own special class. I did the best of everyone who failed.
But I also want to be recognized as the guy who got Steve Balmer to drop out of business school.
I’m a bad influence. That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation.
If I’d spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.
Harvard was a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was fascinating.
I used to sit in on lots of classes that I hadn’t even signed up for. And dorm life was terrific. I lived up at Radcliffe, in Courier House.
There were always a lot of people in my dorm room late at night discussing things, because everyone knew that I didn’t worry about getting up in the morning.
That’s how I came to be the leader of the antisocial group. We clunged each other as a way of validating our rejection of all those social people.
Radcliffe was a great place to live. There were more women up there and most of the guys were math-science types. The combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean.
That’s where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee you success.
One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975. When I made a call from Courier House to a company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that had begun making the world’s first personal computer. I offered to sell them software.
I worried 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 the extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft.
What I remember above all about Harvard, was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging but always challenging.
It was an amazing privilege and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at Harvard, the friendships I made and the ideas I worked on.
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, appalling disparities of health and wealth, and opportunity, that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.
I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas in economics and politics. I got great exposure to the advances being made in the sciences.
But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.