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“Dear Class of 2017…” Bill Gates Has a Message for You

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Bill Gates

Microsoft founder and one of the pioneers of the digital revolution Bill Gates has penned an important letter to 2017 college graduates.

Gates talks about the three disciplines that will help shape the future and why philanthropy should be at the core of everyone’s life.

The letter titled “Dear Class of 2017…” and was first published on Mic, read:

Congratulations! You’ve just accomplished something I never managed to do—earn a college degree.

Between your commencement speaker and every aunt and uncle at your graduation party, I am sure you are getting a lot of advice. At the risk of piling on, I thought I would share a few thoughts.

New college graduates often ask me for career advice. I was lucky to be in my early 20s when the digital revolution was just getting under way, and Paul Allen and I had the chance to help shape it. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.) If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.

One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change. The third is the biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But some things in life are true no matter what career you choose. I wish I had understood these things better when I left school. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

Another thing I wish I had understood much earlier is what true inequity looks like. I did not see it up close until my late 30s, when Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. We were shocked by what we saw. When we came back, we began learning more. It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world. We realized we couldn’t wait to get involved—we had to start giving back right away.

You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it. Like our good friend Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.

If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be a copy of The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker. After several years of studying, you may not exactly be itching to read a 700-page book. But please put this one on your reading list to get to someday. It is the most inspiring book I have ever read.

Pinker makes a persuasive argument that the world is getting better—that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. This can be a hard case to make, especially now. When you tell people the world is improving, they often look at you like you’re either naïve or crazy.

But it’s true. And once you understand it, you start to see the world differently. If you think things are getting better, then you want to know what’s working, so you can accelerate the progress and spread it to more people and places.

It doesn’t mean you ignore the serious problems we face. It just means you believe they can be solved, and you’re moved to act on that belief.

This is the core of my worldview. It sustains me in tough times and is the reason I still love my philanthropic work after more than 17 years. I think it can do the same for you.

Good luck to all of you. This is an amazing time to be alive. I hope you make the most of it.

19 Comments

  1. Mbe

    May 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

    If its about donestic violence, relationship nonsense or sex, you will see comments. BNers sha

    • Ijs

      May 18, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Read, take the knowledge in his words and APPLY it so others àround you can be inspired. It shouldnt bother you that people prefer relationship Matters. Whats your Own?

    • bubu

      May 18, 2017 at 9:54 am

      You are right, i thought about it too, you will not see 57 comments now! It says a lot about our society and the truth is, this is why we are still at this level. The things we pay attention to, spend hours talking about are so irrelevant and will add no value to us as individuals and a society. You ask yourself why is it that the things that are basic in other societies is a luxury in Nigeria. This is part of it, lack of knowledge, just go to school if u can, make sure u pass, get a job and u are ok. No critical thinking! nothing, the people that rule us nko. CLUELESS

    • LemmeRant

      May 18, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Its not a must to comment on every article, which is probably why majority of the people commenting are just paraphrasing what he said.

    • Engoz

      May 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      I find it funny how people like you don’t contribute any damn thing to the topic, but will perch on some saintly bench monitoring others on where they choose to post. What are your own views on this post?

  2. bubu

    May 18, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Wow! this is an amazing piece. 3 things i got!

    1. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.)

    2. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

    3. Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it

  3. Vickie

    May 18, 2017 at 8:58 am

    brilliant man!!

  4. Wana

    May 18, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Spot on!

  5. Anonymous

    May 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Mid year goal, long term projection

    “I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self……” Bill Gate 2017

    “I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.” Bill Gate 2017

    Hmmm I was this person until people took me for granted and life happened. Now I practice self love. If I don’t love myself who will? ?

  6. Baby gurl

    May 18, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I admire and appreciate Bill Gates. DUH! He’s the richest man in the world. However, this message is flawed in relation to global application. America, whom I feel he should solely be addressing this to, and maybe the other G7 countries are in a “stage of life” different from most countries in South East Asia, Caribbeans and Africa. Bioscience? Artificial intelligence? Where? When we have not finished dealing with basic food, water, health and housing? Whether you choose to accept it or not, Africa has to deal with these issues before we start talking of all these fancy stuff. Should we create Artificial Intelligence labs in Lagos and Abuja when 80% of the population in the 35 other states cannot find what to eat for the next two days? Of course this is sound message but for Class of 2017, American Chapter. It is not our business. Maybe I will send a message to my uncle in the Lord, Uncle Aliko to write his own for our Nigerian Class of 2017. Or I better just do it myself:
    “Dear Nigerian Class of 2017, read what Bill Gates said but instead of bioscience, AI and clean energy, biko we need to put heads together as one to solve the inherent issues of I) Ending Poverty II)Freedom From Hunger III)Clean Water and Sanitation IV)Health and Wellbeing V) Decent Work For All Applicable and VI)Quality Education. Maybe after then can we focus on clean energy and artificial intelligence. As you noticed, I culled these from the current SDGs. Maybe you should go to the UN website to update yourself more on the needs of the developing world which you are a part of. Thank you and I wish you a future with constant electricity. God bless Nigeria”. THE END. Thank you. Don’t @ me (lol).

    • Ayo

      May 18, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      His message is actually universal because innovation in AI, clean energy and the biosciences is how we are going to end poverty, achieve affordable healthcare and wellbeing, improve agricultural productivity. The message is Nigerian youth should dive in early so that we can shape these tools for our own unique situation.

    • Engoz

      May 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      I agree with Ayo. In Gates’ comments, I saw research and innovation. Africa needs to take research seriously. We have to come out of the mindset that studying sciences equals you becoming a doctor, pharmacist, engineer. With innovation we will end poverty and hunger. African governments need to spend more on research and development. Our countries are failures because this sector suffers.

    • Nunulicious

      May 19, 2017 at 5:33 am

      Alternative view alert:
      Few months ago, i heard one of common sense senator (ben murray bruce) minilogues on radio. He essentially was saying that in the 1980’s and 90’s he envisaged that nig entertainment industry was going to explode and that it could put us on the world map. Its 2016 and its a reality. (Kind of)

      He then said we can’t compete with dev nations in tech and in some sectors but what we have abundance of is natural resources, specifically power aka energy aka sunlight. He said in essence if we do it right right now, we can change the story for our kids.

      We may not have artificial intelligence nor bioscience but what we have excess of is enery.

      But where are the leaders with foresight and the law makers who would enable it? They are singing “aje kun iya ni oje” the ultimate proof that our suffer never start.

  7. Nene

    May 18, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Great inspiration this morning!

  8. mz_danielz

    May 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I love this.

    The need for world smart intelligence while having the mindset that there is good in people and the world as well as the approach of solving problems instead of playing the blame game or acting as victims are key success factors

  9. imose

    May 18, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Good read ??????

  10. Seriously

    May 18, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Great article. It pushes me again that there’s a lot that needs to be done. Also, Africa is way behind than the rest of the world. Bill Gates is talking about advanced things because basic necessities have been met in developed countries. However, in Africa we are still fighting for clean water and electricity. Basic life necessities
    Innovation, invention and application of critical thinking is essential in Africa.

  11. Wow

    May 19, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Great Read, got ,me thinking of how i can give my quota to the needy around me and howi can use ideas to make my environment better

  12. STANLEY in AFRICA

    May 19, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Dear class of 2017 ..Bill Gates
    1st ) He didn’t complete his degree. Nigerian education must aim at a purpose and an end not frivolity and window dressing. You can have bunch of PhD plus. It means nothing if ur environment doesn’t reflect it.in terms of strategic economic development and modernization. Nigerians should do away with the obsession of prefix n titles – Dr., Engr, Gen., Chief etc
    2nd ) On artificial intelligence, the 4th Industrial Revolution is already with us yet no coherent and visible framework to deal with the bulwark to unlock the potential in this sector. Nigerian government must create the enabling environment to allow the leaders and captains of this industry to emerge.
    3rd ) Clean affordable and reliable Energy. Electricity generation, transmission, and distribution is the main engine of economic growth. A fundamental that must be in place for industrialization and wealth creation. Nigerians have for too long left it solely in the hands of the government while relying on limiting individual generator set.that can’t power heavy industries and attract foreign investors. As a priority, Nigeria must be energized at all cost. They must collectively and proactively demand it from the government.to provide adequate constant electricity supply
    South African government recently anticipating future growth, successfully built and manage two coal thermal power stations. It currently have excess power output and doesn’t stop there. The country is still considering building more nuclear power plants.
    Nigeria must take its economic development more seriously. It is myopic not to put the money where the nation’s mouth is. It’s better than padding n stealing the budget n sending it overseas. There they use the stolen as a cheap source of funds to build their own power stations.
    Energy capacity n capabilities is a true reflection of an educated people not the degrees that are not even worth the papers they are written on or the chips that are hanging on the shoulders as empty pride.
    4th) Bioscience- Africans generally do not quite understand and value research. They want the latest inventions and models and theirs is only to ask how is it and consume .
    5th ) We are all talented differently. One of the most important functions of a leader is to create activities that are aligned with the vision and objectives and match the right persons with the the right activities. It is not to put ur brothers, tribesmen , religious fratanizers etc in position .Skills and competencies are prerequisites. As in Nigeria, U can’t put the the cart in front of the horse and expect things to move.
    Finally. PHILANTHROPHISM and INEQUALITY
    It is through the window created by Bill Gates and partners that we see the world and the world sees us today. Himself and his wife draw oxygen from each other. This attests to the nuclear family which Africans already have but treathen by Western feminism that destabilizes social fabric and order in the society .
    However, the crux of the matter is the rising levels of inequality. The current world order favors the west and all the odds stacked against Africa. The west makes the rules n Africa just play the game. The habingger and the root cause of inequality is the economic system that lends itself to unfair distribution of income and wealth and incubates corruption. It creates n widens the gaps between the rich n the poor.
    The world is at peace, better or worse depends on where one is sitting. The glass is either half full or half empty. Invariably, it’s very unlikely for the richest people to grasp the tomoil and the excruciating pangs in a poor n hungry man’s stomach. Especially if you add his future that is bleak n hopeless.
    The economic system and the world order perpetuates inequality today by identifying few people , heaping n piling the wealth of the world on them. It amount to a senseless accumulation of wealth especially those in Africa whose claim to wealth is based on their proximity and access to government rather than wealth creation through private interprise or entrepreneurial initiatives. However, from this, they give a handout as philanthropy to the poor to pacify them.
    The rich create trust companies and foundations to dump and secure their wealth .Even after their death, the wealth is managed from their graves through the activities of their foundations.
    Finally. Finally. For African mumu and follow- follow people, with no sense of history or originality, thank Bill Gates from the west for realising what ur forefathers already knew and in cultured . That as human , you’re nobody until someone or the community said you are. This is called UBUNTU. This is opposed to western philosophy of self interest – I, ME, and Myself.
    By the way. Some Nigerians are drinking and swimming in the oil, while some have never tasted a drop on their tongues. Without oil there will be no pipelines to anywhere.
    ***OIL IS STILL PART OF THE WESTERN ENERGY MIX AND Biosciences

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