Gates gives advice to Zuckerberg for Harvard speech
They are two of the richest people in the world, each worth billions. And both of them had dropped out of college (university) to launch what are now two of the most successful companies on the planet – Microsoft and Facebook.
But if you asked them to act in a short video, the result would be a complete awkward failure.
Earlier this week, Harvard University announced that Mark Zuckerberg, aka Mr Facebook, will be delivering this year’s Commencement speech to graduates on May 25.
For the uninitiated, the speech is an annual event in the afternoon, and it follows the morning event where graduates receive their degrees.
The Afternoon Exercises, as they are called, consist of the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, which include both the day’s graduates and alumni members. It is in this second gathering that the Commencement speaker delivers his or her address.
Past speakers include JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame, and of course Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who gave his speech in 2007.
So who better than Gates himself to give his fellow Harvard dropout advice on the speech. Gates had left Harvard after 3 years, to go start Microsoft, while his younger friend took off during his sophomore year, after Facebook had moved to California from Harvard’s Massachusetts’ base.
“I’m not coming back,” Zuckerberg told a campus newspaper then.
Well, he did go back later on, but it was to recruit engineers “straight out of college” for Facebook which, incidentally, had already become the second most-trafficked website on the Internet then.
Now, some 13 years and a whole lot of wealth later, Zuckerberg is once again returning, this time to give his widely anticipated speech.
Which brings us to the short video put out by Harvard to promote his upcoming address.
Unfortunately, Zuckerberg would be better off with the tech stuff (he is a gifted programmer), rather than the thespian art.
“Judging by his wooden delivery in the tête-a-tête with Gates, who came off as a slightly more seasoned thespian, Zuckerberg clearly has his work cut out for him,” one reviewer said.
Ok, so it isn’t an Oscar-winning performance from the two tech geniuses.
“Woah! I just got invited to give the commencement address at Harvard this year,” Zuckerberg says, as the cringe-worthy video begins.
“That’s amazing!” replies Gates, totally unconvincingly.
“I remember you did it 10 years ago when Priscilla graduated,” Zuckerberg says, referring to his then friend in college who is now his wife. “I was there!” the Facebook CEO added.
“That was a lot of fun,” Gates says, recalling his 2007 speech. “30 years later than I was supposed to .. but I enjoyed it.”
“You know we didn’t actually graduated, right?” Zuckerberg attempts a joke.
“That is actually the best part!” Gates replies. “They actually give you a degree!”
Gates received his honorary degree in 2007, and Zuckerberg will receive his in May.
“Don’t you have to go to class?” asked the Facebook founder in the skit.
“No, no! You just put that on your resume and it looks great!”
Zuckerberg then asked Gates if he could help him with what he was going to say at his speech in May.
“Ya, we should work on it together. Let’s go get some more snacks.”
And then the punchline:
“Do you get to wear the hat and everything?”
“Right, you better!” Gates replies. “Don’t wear anything underneath!”
Watch the video here:
Well, talk about “artificial intelligence”. Artificial certainly! Intelligence… needs some work.
But seriously, the two men dropping out of college has been cited by many who argue that education in formal settings in school are stifling and suppress creativity. Maybe so, but Gates has good things to say about his time there, describing it as a “phenomenal experience” for him.
“It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging,” Gates said in his 2007 speech. “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.”
His speech that day is known for his focus on “inequities” in the world, where he urged the graduates to help solve the complex problems faced by the poorest in the world.
“I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country,” Gates explained. “And I knew nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.
“It took me decades to find out.”
He exhorted “each of the graduates here to take on an issue — a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist on it…. You have more than we had. You must start sooner and carry on longer.”
And Gates himself has put his money where his mouth is, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda is, of course, his wife.
As for Zuckerberg, he and his wife, Priscilla, whom he once asked in college if she wanted to work for Facebook, have also started their own project to help with the world’s inequalities.
Called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, it seeks to advance human potential and promote equal opportunity around the world.
Both Gates and Zuckerberg, who together are worth some US$142 billion, have also pledged to give away virtually all their wealth to their foundations, and other charities.
And both Microsoft and Facebook will be names which will stick around for a very long time indeed, longer than their founders’ time spent in school.