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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
achievement: n. thành công/ thành tựu
WORDS AND PHRASES
advance: n. tiến bộ
appalling: adj. đáng sợ, khủng khiếp
apply: v. ứng dụng
awareness: n. nhận thức
campus: n. khuôn viên một trường đại học
cheat: v. lừa
condemn: v. khiến
decade: thập niên/ 10 năm
degree: n. bằng/ tấm bằng
democracy: n. nền dân chủ
despair: n. tuyệt vọng
disparity: n. sự chênh lệch/ khác biệt lớn
dorm: n. (dormitory) ký túc xá sinh viên
dropout: n. học sinh/ sinh viên bỏ học
exhilarating: adj. thái quá/ quá đáng
exposure: n. tiếp xúc/ chứng kiến tận mắt
graduate: n. sinh viên mới tốt nghiệp ĐH-CĐ
graduation: n. lễ tốt nghiệp
guarantee: v. bảo đảm
honor: n. vinh dự
human: adj. của loài người
inequity: n. bất công
intimidating: adj. gớm guốc/ đáng sợ
odds: n. cách biệt
orientation: n. hướng dẫn tân sinh viên
overseer: n. người thanh tra/ giám sát
phenomenal: n. khác thường/ phi thường
poverty: n. nghèo đói
privilege: n. đặc quyền/ đặc lợi
project: dự án
regret: n. sự hối tiếc
rejection: n. chối bỏ/ ruồng bỏ
resume: n. lý lịch
route: n. con đường
transform: v. làm biến đổi
valedictorian: sinh viên xuất sắc nhất (thường được đại diện đọc diễn văn ra trường trong lễ tốt nghiệp)
validate: v. biện hộ