Bill and Melinda Gates told Stanford students at commencement yesterday that they should bring the school’s innovative spirit with them into the working world, but they shouldn’t lose sight of social good in the quest to generate profits.
In the first joint commencement speech in Stanford history, the pair spoke highly of the school’s culture of innovation, and the quality of its students. But they also cautioned students about solely following profit in their post-graduate endeavors.
Watch the full video of their address above.
Bill Gates said that there are many people who don’t believe that the world will be a better place in the future, and that technological change won’t make people’s lives better. Unsurprisingly, he and Melinda see things differently, but he doesn’t think positive change is inevitable.
“The pessimists are wrong, in my view,” Bill Gates said. “But they are not crazy. If innovation is purely market-driven, and we don’t focus on the big inequities, then we could have amazing advances in inventions that leave the world even more divided.”
In the last words of the speech, Melinda Gates encouraged students to be aware of the privileges they have, and to cultivate empathy for people who are less fortunate than they are.
“As you leave Stanford, take all your genius and your optimism and your empathy, and go change the world in ways that will make millions of people optimistic,” she said.
The address also had its light moments. Bill and Melinda Gates both donned oversized glasses with tape on the bridges in their introduction, saying that they’re proud to call themselves nerds. That earned a hearty cheer and applause from the audience.
Gates isn’t the only former Microsoft CEO working the commencement circuit this year. Steve Ballmer, who only recently left the top job at Microsoft, spoke at the University of Washington commencement last week, and talked to graduate students from USC’s Marshall School of Business last month.