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 timely 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 today for taking a much more direct route to your degrees. For my part, I’m just happy that the Crimson has called me "Harvard’s most successful dropout." 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 Ballmer to drop out of business school. I’m a bad influence. That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.
Harvard was just a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was fascinating. I used to sit in on lots of classes I hadn’t even signed up for. And dorm life was terrific. I lived up at Radcliffe, in Currier House. There were always lots of people in my dorm room late at night discussing things, because everyone knew I didn’t worry about getting up in the morning. That’s how I came to be the leader of the anti-social group. We clung to each other as a way of validating our rejection of all those social people.
对我来说，哈佛的求学经历是一段非凡的经历。校园生活很有趣，我常去旁听我没选修的课。哈佛的课外生活也很棒，我在Radcliffe过着逍遥自在 的日子。每天我的寝室里总有很多人一直待到半夜，讨论着各种事情。因为每个人都知道我从不考虑第二天早起。这使得我变成了校园里那些不安分学生的头头，我 们互相粘在一起，做出一种拒绝所有正常学生的姿态。
Radcliffe was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success.
One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers. I offered to sell them software.
I worried that 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 this little extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft.
我很担心，他们会发觉我是一个住在宿舍的学生，从而挂断电话。但是他们却说：“我们还没准备好，一个月后你再来找我们吧。”这是个好消息，因为那时 软件还根本没有写出来呢。就是从那个时候起，我日以继夜地在这个小小的课外项目上工作，这导致了我学生生活的结束，以及通往微软公司的不平凡的旅程的开 始。
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 – the 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. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.
I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country. 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.
You graduates came to Harvard at a different time. You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how – in this age of accelerating technology – we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them.
Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?
For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the most good for the greatest number with the resources we have.
During our discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article about the millions of children who were dying every year in poor countries from diseases that we had long ago made harmless in this country. Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, yellow fever. One disease I had never even heard of, rotavirus, was killing half a million kids each year – none of them in the United States.
We were shocked. We had just assumed that if millions of children were dying and they could be saved, the world would make it a priority to discover and deliver the medicines to save them. But it did not. For under a dollar, there were interventions that could save lives that just weren’t being delivered.
If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to learn that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not. We said to ourselves: "This can’t be true. But if it is true, it deserves to be the priority of our giving."
So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it. We asked: "How could the world let these children die?"
The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.
But you and I have both.
We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.
我们可以让市场更好地为穷人服务，如果我们能够设计出一种更有创新性的资本主义制度——如果我们可以改变市场，让更多的人可以获得利润，或者至少可 以维持生活——那么，这就可以帮到那些正在极端不平等的状况中受苦的人们。我们还可以向全世界的政府施压，要求他们将纳税人的钱，花到更符合纳税人价值观 的地方。
If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.
I am optimistic that we can do this, but I talk to skeptics who claim there is no hope. They say: "Inequity has been with us since the beginning, and will be with us till the end – because people just … don’t … care." I completely disagree.
I believe we have more caring than we know what to do with.
All of us here in this Yard, at one time or another, have seen human tragedies that broke our hearts, and yet we did nothing – not because we didn’t care, but because we didn’t know what to do. If we had known how to help, we would have acted.
The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.
To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps.
Even with the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news, it is still a complex enterprise to get people to truly see the problems. When an airplane crashes, officials immediately call a press conference. They promise to investigate, determine the cause, and prevent similar crashes in the future.
But if the officials were brutally honest, they would say: "Of all the people in the world who died today from preventable causes, one half of one percent of them were on this plane. We’re determined to do everything possible to solve the problem that took the lives of the one half of one percent."
The bigger problem is not the plane crash, but the millions of preventable deaths.
We don’t read much about these deaths. The media covers what’s new – and millions of people dying is nothing new. So it stays in the background, where it’s easier to ignore. But even when we do see it or read about it, it’s difficult to keep our eyes on the problem. It’s hard to look at suffering if the situation is so complex that we don’t know how to help. And so we look away.
我们并没有很多机会了解那些死亡事件。媒体总是报告新闻，几百万人将要死去并非新闻。如果没有人报道，那么这些事件就很容易被忽视。另一方面，即使 我们确实目睹了事件本身或者看到了相关报道，我们也很难持续关注这些事件。看着他人受苦是令人痛苦的，何况问题又如此复杂，我们根本不知道如何去帮助他 人。所以我们会将脸转过去。
If we can really see a problem, which is the first step, we come to the second step: cutting through the complexity to find a solution.
Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring. If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual asks "How can I help?," then we can get action – and we can make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares — and that makes it hard for their caring to matter.
如果我们要让关心落到实处，我们就必须找到解决办法。如果我们有一个清晰的和可靠的答案，那么当任何组织和个人发出疑问“如何我能提供帮助”的时 候，我们就能采取行动。我们就能够保证不浪费一丁点全世界人类对他人的关心。但是，世界的复杂性使得很难找到对全世界每一个有爱心的人都有效的行动方法， 因此人类对他人的关心往往很难产生实际效果。
Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you already have — whether it’s something sophisticated, like a drug, or something simpler, like a bednet.
The AIDS epidemic offers an example. The broad goal, of course, is to end the disease. The highest-leverage approach is prevention. The ideal technology would be a vaccine that gives lifetime immunity with a single dose. So governments, drug companies, and foundations fund vaccine research. But their work is likely to take more than a decade, so in the meantime, we have to work with what we have in hand – and the best prevention approach we have now is getting people to avoid risky behavior.
艾滋病就是一个例子。总的目标，毫无疑问是消灭这种疾病。最高效的方法是预防。最理想的技术是发明一种疫苗，只要注射一次，就可以终生免疫。所以， 政府、制药公司、基金会应该资助疫苗研究。但是，这样研究工作很可能十年之内都无法完成。因此，与此同时，我们必须使用现有的技术，目前最有效的预防方法 就是设法让人们避免那些危险的行为。
Pursuing that goal starts the four-step cycle again. This is the pattern. The crucial thing is to never stop thinking and working – and never do what we did with malaria and tuberculosis in the 20th century – which is to surrender to complexity and quit.
The final step – after seeing the problem and finding an approach – is to measure the impact of your work and share your successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.
You have to have the statistics, of course. You have to be able to show that a program is vaccinating millions more children. You have to be able to show a decline in the number of children dying from these diseases. This is essential not just to improve the program, but also to help draw more investment from business and government.
But if you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work – so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected.
I remember going to Davos some years back and sitting on a global health panel that was discussing ways to save millions of lives. Millions! Think of the thrill of saving just one person’s life – then multiply that by millions. … Yet this was the most boring panel I’ve ever been on – ever. So boring even I couldn’t bear it.
What made that experience especially striking was that I had just come from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love getting people excited about software – but why can’t we generate even more excitement for saving lives?
You can’t get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the impact. And how you do that – is a complex question.
除非你能够让人们看到或者感受到行动的影响力，否则你无法让人们激动。如何做到这一点，并不是一件简单的事。 Still, I’m optimistic. Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us forever. They are new – they can help us make the most of our caring – and that’s why the future can be different from the past.
The defining and ongoing innovations of this age – biotechnology, the computer, the Internet – give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.
Sixty years ago, George Marshall came to this commencement and announced a plan to assist the nations of post-war Europe. He said: "I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. It is virtually impossible at this distance to grasp at all the real significance of the situation."
Thirty years after Marshall made his address, as my class graduated without me, technology was emerging that would make the world smaller, more open, more visible, less distant.
The emergence of low-cost personal computers gave rise to a powerful network that has transformed opportunities for learning and communicating.
The magical thing about this network is not just that it collapses distance and makes everyone your neighbor. It also dramatically increases the number of brilliant minds we can have working together on the same problem – and that scales up the rate of innovation to a staggering degree.
At the same time, for every person in the world who has access to this technology, five people don’t. That means many creative minds are left out of this discussion -- smart people with practical intelligence and relevant experience who don’t have the technology to hone their talents or contribute their ideas to the world.
We need as many people as possible to have access to this technology, because these advances are triggering a revolution in what human beings can do for one another. They are making it possible not just for national governments, but for universities, corporations, smaller organizations, and even individuals to see problems, see approaches, and measure the impact of their efforts to address the hunger, poverty, and desperation George Marshall spoke of 60 years ago.
我们需要尽可能地让更多的人有机会使用新技术，因为这些新技术正在引发一场革命，人类将因此可以互相帮助。新技术正在创造一种可能，不仅是政府，还 包括大学、公司、小机构、甚至个人，能够发现问题所在、能够找到解决办法、能够评估他们努力的效果，去改变那些马歇尔六十年前就说到过的问题——饥饿、贫 穷和绝望。
Members of the Harvard Family: Here in the Yard is one of the great collections of intellectual talent in the world.
There is no question that the faculty, the alumni, the students, and the benefactors of Harvard have used their power to improve the lives of people here and around the world. But can we do more? Can Harvard dedicate its intellect to improving the lives of people who will never even hear its name?
Let me make a request of the deans and the professors – the intellectual leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:
Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?
Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty … the prevalence of world hunger … the scarcity of clean water …the girls kept out of school … the children who die from diseases we can cure?
Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged?
These are not rhetorical questions – you will answer with your policies.
My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here – never stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before my wedding, she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to Melinda. My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message, and at the close of the letter she said: "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."
我的母亲在我被哈佛大学录取的那一天，曾经感到非常骄傲。她从没有停止督促我，去为他人做更多的事情。在我结婚的前几天，她主持了一个新娘进我家的 仪式。在这个仪式上，她高声朗读了一封关于婚姻的信，这是她写给Melinda的。那时，我的母亲已经因为癌症病入膏肓，但是她还是认为这是又一个传播她 的信念的机会。在那封信的结尾，她写道：“对于那些接受了许多帮助的人们，他们还在期待更多的帮助。”
When you consider what those of us here in this Yard have been given – in talent, privilege, and opportunity – there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from us.
In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue – a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist on it. If you make it the focus of your career, that would be phenomenal. But you don’t have to do that to make an impact. For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them.
同这个时代的期望一样，我也要向今天各位毕业的同学提出一个忠告：你们要选择一个问题，一个复杂的问题，一个有关于人类深刻的不平等的问题，然后你 们要变成这个问题的专家。如果你们能够使得这个问题成为你们职业的核心，那么你们就会非常杰出。但是，你们不必一定要去做那些大事。每个星期只用几个小 时，你就可以通过互联网得到信息，找到志同道合的朋友，发现困难所在，找到解决它们的途径。
Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.
You graduates are coming of age in an amazing time. As you leave Harvard, you have technology that members of my class never had. You have awareness of global inequity, which we did not have. And with that awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with very little effort. You have more than we had; you must start sooner, and carry on longer.
在座的各位毕业的同学，你们所处的时代是一个神奇的时代。当你们离开哈佛的时候，你们拥有的技术，是我们那一届学生所没有的。你们已经了解到了世界 上的不平等，我们那时还不知道这些。有了这样的了解之后，要是你再弃那些你可以帮助的人们于不顾，就将受到良心的谴责，只需一点小小的努力，你就可以改变 那些人们的生活。你们比我们拥有更大的能力；你们必须尽早开始，尽可能长时期坚持下去。
Knowing what you know, how could you not?
And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your talent and your energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deepest inequities … on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.
我希望，30年后你们还会再回到哈佛，想起你们用自己的天赋和能力所做出的一切。我希望，在那个时候，你们用来评价自己的标准，不仅仅是你们的专业 成就，而包括你们为改变这个世界深刻的不平等所做出的努力，以及你们如何善待那些远隔千山万水、与你们毫不涉及的人们，你们与他们唯一的共同点就是同为人 类。