At Stanford’s 123rd Commencement, Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged graduates to change the world through optimism and empathy. Truly connect with the poor and sick, they advised, and channel those experiences into making the world a better place.
Congratulations, class of 2014! Melinda and I are excited to be here. It would be a thrill for anyone to be invited to speak at a Stanford commencement, but it’s especially gratifying for us. Stanford is rapidly becoming the favorite university for members of our family, and it’s long been a favorite university for Microsoft and our Foundation. Our formula has been to get the smartest, most creative people working on the most important problems. It turns out that a disproportionate number of those people are at Stanford.
Right now, we have more than 30 Foundation research projects underway here. When we want to learn more about the immune system to help cure the worst diseases, we work with Stanford. When we want to understand the changing landscape of higher education in the United States, so that more low-income students get college degrees, we work with Stanford. This is where genius lives. There’s a flexibility of mind here, an openness to change, an eagerness for what’s new. This is where people come to discover the future, and have fun doing it.
Now, some people call you all nerds and we hear that you claim that label with pride.
Bill Gates: Well, so do we. My normal glasses really aren’t all that different. There are so many remarkable things going on here at this campus, but if Melinda and I had to put into one word what we love most about Stanford, it’s the optimism. There’s an infectious feeling here that innovation can solve almost every problem. That’s the belief that drove me in 1975 to leave a college in the suburbs of Boston and go on an endless leave of absence.