Historic and inspirational speeches – After 20th century



Selected speeches

Pope John Paul II
Holocaust speech (2000)

Oprah Winfrey
Bob Hope Humanitarian Award Speech (2002)
Commencement Speech at Stanford University (2008)

Barack Obama
“The audacity of hope” (2004)
Victory speech (2008)
“A new beginning” (2009)
Commencement Address at Howard University (2016)

Steven Jobs
“You’ve got to find what you love” (2005)

Kofi Annan
Farewell Address (2006)
“Imagine an African continent…” (2013)

Muhammad Yunus
“Poor people are bonsai people” (2006)

Bill Gates
“Don’t let complexity stop you” (2007)

Randy Pausch
“Really achieving your childhood dreams” (2007)
Commencement Address at Carnegie Mellon (2008)

Al Gore
“We are confronting a planetary emergency” (2007)

Kevin Rudd
Sorry Speech (2008)

J.K. Rowling
“The fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination” (2008)

Michelle Obama
Commencement Speech at University of California at Merced (2009)

Michelle Bachelet
On Dag Hammarskjold’s legacy (2011)

Tony Blair
“Rethinking leadership for development” (2011)

David McCullough, Jr.
“You’re not special” (2012)

Pope Francis
Inaugural Mass Homily (2013)

Malala Yousafzai
Speech at the United Nations (2013)

Vladimir Putin
A plea for caution from Russia (2013)

Thich Nhat Hanh
Speech at the Vatican (2014)

William H. McRaven
Commencement Speech, University of Texas at Austin (2014)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Commencement Address at Wellesley College (2015)

Khizr Khan
Speech at Democratic National Convention (2016)

Stephen Spielberg
Commencement Speech at Havard University (2016)

Emma Gonzalez
“We call BS” (2018)

References and Bibliography



This is the third and the last post in the series “Historic and inspirational speeches”. Two other posts are:

  • Historic and inspirational speeches – Before 20th century
  • Historic and inspirational speeches – During 20th century

While the first post is mainly for oration and history and the second is focused in history, this post is a mix of historic and inspirational speeches – the latter consist of particularly commencement speeches.

As for commencement speeches, Esquire has this to say:

Our greatest actors, writers, musicians, and leaders give really great advice—but it’s not just for college graduates.

It’s easy to dismiss the lessons delivered in a college commencement speech as reserved for bright, privileged kids with a degree at a fancy school who have their whole lives ahead of them. Anyone still grinding through college or living in the real world probably doesn’t exactly feel like the target audience for these inspiring words. And that’s not wrong!

But the point of these speeches isn’t to give those bright-eyed youngsters lessons for that given moment in time. No one needs advice on how to relax after a lifetime of school and tests and teachers. This advice is for graduates to store away somewhere and remember once real life beats their ass. Because that’ll happen. This is advice for the hard times to come. This is advice for the people still struggling away to kick off careers, to make dreams come true, etc., etc.

In many ways, this isn’t advice for those graduates getting ready to spend the weekend getting obliterated at parties—this is advice for those of us bitterly hearing it long after the fact. Maybe you’re 10, 20, 40 years out of school and you need some shot of inspiration, professionally, creatively, or otherwise—these are the words for you.



The worst prison would be a closed heart. (Pope John Paul II)

Turn your wounds into wisdom. (Oprah Winfrey)

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. (Barack Obama)

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma … . Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. (Steve Jobs)

Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives. (Bill Gates)

We can not change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. (Randy Pausch)

People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom? (Thich Nhat Hanh)

My job is to create a world that lasts two hours. Your job is to create a world that lasts forever. (Steven Spielberg)

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  … If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made – that you made – and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” (Admiral William McRaven)

Selected speeches

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła (1920–2005) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.

He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 and canonised 483 people, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated a large number of the world’s bishops, and ordained many priests. A key goal of John Paul’s papacy was to transform and reposition the Catholic Church. His wish was “to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great religious armada”.

Pope John Paul II at Western Wall 26-Mar-2000
Pope John Paul II at Western Wall, 26-Mar-2000

John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014 (again Divine Mercy Sunday), together with Pope John XXIII. On 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added these two optional memorials to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints. Posthumously, he has been referred to by some Catholics as “St. John Paul the Great”, although the title has no official recognition.

Holocaust speech (2000)

From 20 to 26 March 2000, John Paul II was on his Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On this occasion, he visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum at Jerusalem, where he delivered a speech.

Yad Vashem had been established in 1953 as a memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished during World War 2.

It follows the full text transcript of Pope John Paul II’s speech, delivered at the Yad Vashem Museum at Jerusalem, Israel –23 March 2000.

The words of the ancient Psalm rise from our hearts:

I have become like a broken vessel.
I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! –
as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’.

(Ps 31:13-15)

1. In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah. My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the War. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors, some of whom perished, while others survived.

I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.

Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.

2. We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.

How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a Godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.

The honor given to the “just gentiles” by the State of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms, and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaim that evil will not have the last word. Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer’s heart cries out: “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’.” (Ps 31:14).

3. Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God’s self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.

As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being (cf. Gen 1:26).

4. In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the twentieth century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith (cf. We Remember, V).

The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of the Holocaust and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls.

It makes us cry out:

“I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’.” (Ps 31:13-15).

 Yad Vashem Speech http://www.emersonkent.com/speeches/yad_vashem.htm

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey (1954– ) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her self-titled, multi-award-winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011. She has been considered to be the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world.

Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She experienced considerable hardship during her childhood, claiming to be raped at age nine and becoming pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy. Sent to live with the man she calls her father, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime-talk-show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.

Credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication, she is thought to have popularized and revolutionized the tabloid talk show genre pioneered by Phil Donahue, which a Yale study claims broke 20th century taboos and allowed LGBT people to enter the mainstream. By the mid 1990s, she had reinvented her show with a focus on literature, self-improvement, and spirituality. Though criticized for unleashing confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas, and an emotion-centered approach she is often praised for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others.

Oprah Winfrey received Honorary Degree at 2013 Harvard University 362nd Commencement Exercises at Harvard University on 30 May 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Bob Hope Humanitarian Award Speech (2002)

The Bob Hope Humanitarian Award was established in 2002 by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in recognition of Bob Hope’s trailblazing career. The award, one of the highest honors presented by the Board, recognizes the contributions accomplished by Hope, for more than half a century, to the growth and development of broadcasting in radio and television as a family medium, and as a platform for political and social commentary.

On 22 September 2002, Oprah Winfrey receives the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

Oprah Winfrey and Bob Hope Award
Oprah Winfrey and Bob Hope Award

Thank you everybody. Thank you Tom, and Bob and Dolores, who are home watching I hope, thank you so much, and to everyone who voted for me.

There really is nothing more important to me than striving to be a good human being. So, to be here tonight and be acknowledged as the first to receive this honor is beyond expression in words for me. ‘I am a human being, nothing human is alien to me.’ Terence(1) said that in 154 B.C. and when I first read it many years ago, I had no idea of the depth of that meaning.

I grew up in Nashville with a father who owned a barbershop, Winfrey’s Barber Shop, he still does, I can’t get him to retire. And every holiday, every holiday, all of the transients and the guys who I thought were just losers who hung out at the shop, and were always bumming haircuts from my father and borrowing money from my dad, all those guys always ended up at our dinner table. They were a cast of real characters – it was Fox and Shorty and Bootsy and Slim. And I would say, ‘Bootsy, could you pass the peas please?’

And I would often say to my father afterwards, ‘Dad, why can’t we just have regular people at our Christmas dinner?’ – because I was looking for the Currier & Ives version. And my father said to me, ‘They are regular people. They’re just like you. They want the same thing you want.’ And I would say, ‘What?’ And he’d say, ‘To be fed.’ And at the time, I just thought he was talking about dinner.

But I have since learned how profound he really was, because we all are just regular people seeking the same thing. The guy on the street, the woman in the classroom, the Israeli, the Afghani, the Zuni, the Apache, the Irish, the Protestant, the Catholic, the gay, the straight, you, me – we all just want to know that we matter. [applause] We want validation. We want the same things. We want safety and we want to live a long life. We want to find somebody to love. Stedman, thank you. We want to find somebody to laugh with and have the power and the place to cry with when necessary.

The greatest pain in life is to be invisible. What I’ve learned is that we all just want to be heard. And I thank all the people who continue to let me hear your stories, and by sharing your stories, you let other people see themselves and for a moment, glimpse the power to change and the power to triumph.

Maya Angelou said, ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give.’ I want you to know that this award to me means that I will continue to strive to give back to the world what it has given to me, so that I might even be more worthy of tonight’s honor.

Thank you. (long applause]

54th Annual EMMY Awards Famous Speech by Oprah Winfreyhttp://www.famousquotes.me.uk/speeches/Oprah-Winfrey/index.htm

Full video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQxrZ7jT0iM


(1) Publius Terentius Afer (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC), better known in English as Terence, was a Roman playwright during the Roman Republic, of Berber descent. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on, impressed by his abilities, freed him.

(2) Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson (1928–2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

Commencement Speech at Stanford University (2008)

Oprah gave the 2008 Stanford University commencement speech focusing on the lessons she learn from her life experiences. The lessons Oprah wanted to share with the 2008 graduating class were be true to who you are, learning from your failures, and finding happiness.

Oprah spoke about the importance of service and her life’s dedication to help less fortunate have some of the same opportunities as her and the Stanford graduates. Oprah also gave the graduates advice on how to move forward from failure and how to deal with change. Oprah’s message to the graduates was fame and fortune does not guarantee happiness; you will find happiness by remaining true to yourself and using life’s lesson to move forward.


This speech is evaluated as one in 40 Best Commencement Speeches by the website Essence.

[cheers and applause] 08s… Thank you, President Hennessy, and to the trustees and the faculty, to all of the parents and grandparents, to you, the Stanford graduates. Thank you for letting me share this amazing day with you.

I need to begin by letting everyone in on a little secret. The secret is that Kirby Bumpus [cheers], Stanford Class of ’08, is my goddaughter [cheers]. So, I was thrilled when President Hennessy asked me to be your Commencement speaker, because this is the first time I’ve been allowed on campus since Kirby’s been here. [laughter]

You see, Kirby’s a very smart girl. She wants people to get to know her on her own terms, she says. Not in terms of who she knows. So, she never wants anyone who’s first meeting her to know that I know her and she knows me. So, when she first came to Stanford for new student orientation with her mom, I hear that they arrived and everybody was so welcoming, and somebody came up to Kirby and they said, “Ohmigod, that’s Gayle King!” Because a lot of people know Gayle King as my BFF [best friend forever].

And so somebody comes up to Kirby, and they say, “Ohmigod, is that Gayle King?” And Kirby’s like, “Uh-huh. She’s my mom.”

And so the person says, “Ohmigod, does it mean, like, you know Oprah Winfrey?”

And Kirby says, “Sort of.” [laughter]

I said, “Sort of? You sort of know me?” Well, I have photographic proof. I have pictures which I can e-mail to you all of Kirby riding horsey with me on all fours. So, I more than sort-of know Kirby Bumpus. And I’m so happy to be here, just happy that I finally, after four years, get to see her room. There’s really nowhere else I’d rather be, because I’m so proud of Kirby, who graduates today with two degrees, one in human bio and the other in psychology. Love you, Kirby Cakes! That’s how well I know her. I can call her Cakes.

And so proud of her mother and father, who helped her get through this time, and her brother, Will. I really had nothing to do with her graduating from Stanford, but every time anybody’s asked me in the past couple of weeks what I was doing, I would say, “I’m getting ready to go to Stanford.”

I just love saying “Stanford.” [laughter] Because the truth is, I know I would have never gotten my degree at all, ’cause I didn’t go to Stanford. I went to Tennessee State University. But I never would have gotten my diploma at all, because I was supposed to graduate back in 1975, but I was short one credit. And I figured, I’m just going to forget it, ’cause, you know, I’m not going to march with my class. Because by that point, I was already on television. I’d been in television since I was 19 and a sophomore. Granted, I was the only television anchor person that had an 11 o’clock curfew doing the 10 o’clock news.

Seriously, my dad was like, “Well, that news is over at 10:30. Be home by 11.”

But that didn’t matter to me, because I was earning a living. I was on my way. So, I thought, I’m going to let this college thing go and I only had one credit short. But, my father, from that time on and for years after, was always on my case, because I did not graduate. He’d say, “Oprah Gail” – that’s my middle name – “I don’t know what you’re gonna do without that degree.” And I’d say, “But, Dad, I have my own television show.” [laughter]

And he’d say, “Well, I still don’t know what you’re going to do without that degree.”

And I’d say, “But, Dad, now I’m a talk show host.” He’d say, “I don’t know how you’re going to get another job without that degree.” [laughter]

So, in 1987, Tennessee State University invited me back to speak at their commencement. By then, I had my own show, was nationally syndicated. I’d made a movie, had been nominated for an Oscar and founded my company, Harpo. But I told them, I cannot come and give a speech unless I can earn one more credit, because my dad’s still saying I’m not going to get anywhere without that degree.

So, I finished my coursework, I turned in my final paper and I got the degree. [laughter and cheers]

And my dad was very proud. And I know that, if anything happens, that one credit will be my salvation.

But I also know why my dad was insisting on that diploma, because, as B. B. King(1) put it, “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take that away from you.” And learning is really in the broadest sense what I want to talk about today, because your education, of course, isn’t ending here. In many ways, it’s only just begun.

The world has so many lessons to teach you. I consider the world, this Earth, to be like a school and our life the classrooms. And sometimes here in this Planet Earth school the lessons often come dressed up as detours or roadblocks. And sometimes as full-blown crises. And the secret I’ve learned to getting ahead is being open to the lessons, lessons from the grandest university of all, that is, the universe itself.

It’s being able to walk through life eager and open to self-improvement and that which is going to best help you evolve, ’cause that’s really why we’re here, to evolve as human beings. To grow into more of ourselves, always moving to the next level of understanding, the next level of compassion and growth.

I think about one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received: I interviewed with a reporter when I was first starting out in Chicago. And then many years later, I saw the same reporter. And she said to me, “You know what? You really haven’t changed. You’ve just become more of yourself.”

And that is really what we’re all trying to do, become more of ourselves. And I believe that there’s a lesson in almost everything that you do and every experience, and getting the lesson is how you move forward. It’s how you enrich your spirit. And, trust me, I know that inner wisdom is more precious than wealth. The more you spend it, the more you gain.

So, today, I just want to share a few lessons – meaning three – that I’ve learned in my journey so far. And aren’t you glad? Don’t you hate it when somebody says, “I’m going to share a few,” and it’s 10 lessons later? And, you’re like, “Listen, this is my graduation. This is not about you.” So, it’s only going to be three.

The three lessons that have had the greatest impact on my life have to do with feelings, with failure and with finding happiness.

A year after I left college, I was given the opportunity to co-anchor the 6 o’clock news in Baltimore, because the whole goal in the media at the time I was coming up was you try to move to larger markets. And Baltimore was a much larger market than Nashville. So, getting the 6 o’clock news co-anchor job at 22 was such a big deal. It felt like the biggest deal in the world at the time.

And I was so proud, because I was finally going to have my chance to be like Barbara Walters(2), which is who I had been trying to emulate since the start of my TV career. So, I was 22 years old, making $22,000 a year. And it’s where I met my best friend, Gayle, who was an intern at the same TV station. And once we became friends, we’d say, “Ohmigod, I can’t believe it! You’re making $22,000 and you’re only 22. Imagine when you’re 40 and you’re making $40,000!”

When I turned 40, I was so glad that didn’t happen.

So, here I am, 22, making $22,000 a year and, yet, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right. The first sign, as President Hennessy was saying, was when they tried to change my name. The news director said to me at the time, “Nobody’s going to remember Oprah. So, we want to change your name. We’ve come up with a name we think that people will remember and people will like. It’s a friendly name: Suzie.” [laughter]

Hi, Suzie. Very friendly. You can’t be angry with Suzie. Remember Suzie. But my name wasn’t Suzie. And, you know, I’d grown up not really loving my name, because when you’re looking for your little name on the lunch boxes and the license plate tags, you’re never going to find Oprah.

So, I grew up not loving the name, but once I was asked to change it, I thought, well, it is my name and do I look like a Suzie to you? So, I thought, no, it doesn’t feel right. I’m not going to change my name. And if people remember it or not, that’s OK.

And then they said they didn’t like the way I looked. This was in 1976, when your boss could call you in and say, “I don’t like the way you look.” Now that would be called a lawsuit [chuckles], but back then they could just say, “I don’t like the way you look.” Which, in case some of you in the back, if you can’t tell, is nothing like Barbara Walters(2). So, they sent me to a salon where they gave me a perm, and after a few days all my hair fell out and I had to shave my head. And then they really didn’t like the way I looked.

Because now I am black and bald and sitting on TV. [laughter] Not a pretty picture.

But even worse than being bald, I really hated, hated, hated being sent to report on other people’s tragedies as a part of my daily duty, knowing that I was just expected to observe, when everything in my instinct told me that I should be doing something, I should be lending a hand.

So, as President Hennessy said, I’d cover a fire and then I’d go back and I’d try to give the victims blankets. And I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night because of all the things I was covering during the day.

And, meanwhile, I was trying to sit gracefully like Barbara and make myself talk like Barbara. And I thought, well, I could make a pretty goofy Barbara. And if I could figure out how to be myself, I could be a pretty good Oprah. I was trying to sound elegant like Barbara. And sometimes I didn’t read my copy, because something inside me said, this should be spontaneous. So, I wanted to get the news as I was giving it to the people. So, sometimes, I wouldn’t read my copy and it would be, like, six people on a pileup on I-40. Oh, my goodness.

And sometimes I wouldn’t read the copy – because I wanted to be spontaneous – and I’d come across a list of words I didn’t know and I’d mispronounce. And one day I was reading copy and I called Canada “ca nada.” And I decided, this Barbara thing’s not going too well. I should try being myself.

But at the same time, my dad was saying, “Oprah Gail, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. You better keep that job.” And my boss was saying, “This is the nightly news. You’re an anchor, not a social worker. Just do your job.”

So, I was juggling these messages of expectation and obligation and feeling really miserable with myself. I’d go home at night and fill up my journals, ’cause I’ve kept a journal since I was 15 – so I now have volumes of journals. So, I’d go home at night and fill up my journals about how miserable I was and frustrated. Then I’d eat my anxiety. That’s where I learned that habit.

And after eight months, I lost that job. They said I was too emotional. I was too much. But since they didn’t want to pay out the contract, they put me on a talk show in Baltimore. And the moment I sat down on that show, the moment I did, I felt like I’d come home. I realized that TV could be more than just a playground, but a platform for service, for helping other people lift their lives. And the moment I sat down, doing that talk show, it felt like breathing. It felt right. And that’s where everything that followed for me began.

And I got that lesson. When you’re doing the work you’re meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid. [cheers and applause]

It’s true. And how do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? It feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know. The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead. Every right decision I’ve made – every right decision I’ve ever made – has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself.

If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That’s the lesson. And that lesson alone will save you, my friends, a lot of grief. Even doubt means don’t. This is what I’ve learned. There are many times when you don’t know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, get still, get very still, until you do know what to do.

And when you do get still and let your internal motivation be the driver, not only will your personal life improve, but you will gain a competitive edge in the working world as well. Because, as Daniel Pink(3) writes in his best-seller, A Whole New Mind, we’re entering a whole new age. And he calls it the Conceptual Age, where traits that set people apart today are going to come from our hearts – right brain – as well as our heads. It’s no longer just the logical, linear, rules-based thinking that matters, he says. It’s also empathy and joyfulness and purpose, inner traits that have transcendent worth.

These qualities bloom when we’re doing what we love, when we’re involving the wholeness of ourselves in our work, both our expertise and our emotion.

So, I say to you, forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart and success will come to you.

So, how do I define success? Let me tell you, money’s pretty nice. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that it’s not about money, ’cause money is very nice. I like money. It’s good for buying things.

But having a lot of money does not automatically make you a successful person. What you want is money and meaning. You want your work to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings the real richness to your life. What you really want is to be surrounded by people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That’s when you’re really rich.

So, lesson one, follow your feelings. If it feels right, move forward. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Now I want to talk a little bit about failings, because nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end – as you will – it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course. So, ask every failure – this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time – I say, what is this here to teach me? And as soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of pants – or skirt – to give you some remedial work.

And what I’ve found is that difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper, because life always whispers to you first. And if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream. Whatever you resist persists. But, if you ask the right question – not why is this happening, but what is this here to teach me? – it puts you in the place and space to get the lesson you need.

My friend Eckhart Tolle, who’s written this wonderful book called A New Earth that’s all about letting the awareness of who you are stimulate everything that you do, he puts it like this: He says, don’t react against a bad situation; merge with that situation instead. And the solution will arise from the challenge. Because surrendering yourself doesn’t mean giving up; it means acting with responsibility.

Many of you know that, as President Hennessy said, I started this school in Africa. And I founded the school, where I’m trying to give South African girls a shot at a future like yours – Stanford. And I spent five years making sure that school would be as beautiful as the students. I wanted every girl to feel her worth reflected in her surroundings. So, I checked every blueprint, I picked every pillow. I was looking at the grout in between the bricks. I knew every thread count of the sheets. I chose every girl from the villages, from nine provinces. And yet, last fall, I was faced with a crisis I had never anticipated. I was told that one of the dorm matrons was suspected of sexual abuse.

That was, as you can imagine, devastating news. First, I cried – actually, I sobbed – for about half an hour. And then I said, let’s get to it; that’s all you get, a half an hour. You need to focus on the now, what you need to do now. So, I contacted a child trauma specialist. I put together a team of investigators. I made sure the girls had counseling and support. And Gayle and I got on a plane and flew to South Africa.

And the whole time I kept asking that question: What is this here to teach me? And, as difficult as that experience has been, I got a lot of lessons. I understand now the mistakes I made, because I had been paying attention to all of the wrong things. I’d built that school from the outside in, when what really mattered was the inside out.

So, it’s a lesson that applies to all of our lives as a whole. What matters most is what’s inside. What matters most is the sense of integrity, of quality and beauty. I got that lesson. And what I know is that the girls came away with something, too. They have emerged from this more resilient and knowing that their voices have power.

And their resilience and spirit have given me more than I could ever give to them, which leads me to my final lesson – the one about finding happiness – which we could talk about all day, but I know you have other wacky things to do.

Not a small topic this is, finding happiness. But in some ways I think it’s the simplest of all. Gwendolyn Brooks(4) wrote a poem for her children. It’s called “Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward.” And she says at the end, “Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along.” She’s saying, like Eckhart Tolle, that you have to live for the present. You have to be in the moment. Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because life is now.

But I think she’s also saying, be a part of something. Don’t live for yourself alone. This is what I know for sure: In order to be truly happy, you must live along with and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back. [cheers and applause]

I know you know that, because that’s a lesson that’s woven into the very fabric of this university. It’s a lesson that Jane and Leland Stanford got and one they’ve bequeathed to you. Because all of you know the story of how this great school came to be, how the Stanfords lost their only child to typhoid at the age of 15. They had every right and they had every reason to turn their backs against the world at that time, but instead, they channeled their grief and their pain into an act of grace. Within a year of their son’s death, they had made the founding grant for this great school, pledging to do for other people’s children what they were not able to do for their own boy.

The lesson here is clear, and that is, if you’re hurting, you need to help somebody ease their hurt. If you’re in pain, help somebody else’s pain. And when you’re in a mess, you get yourself out of the mess helping somebody out of theirs. And in the process, you get to become a member of what I call the greatest fellowship of all, the sorority of compassion and the fraternity of service.

The Stanfords had suffered the worst thing any mom and dad can ever endure, yet they understood that helping others is the way we help ourselves. And this wisdom is increasingly supported by scientific and sociological research. It’s no longer just woo-woo soft-skills talk. There’s actually a helper’s high, a spiritual surge you gain from serving others. So, if you want to feel good, you have to go out and do some good.

But when you do good, I hope you strive for more than just the good feeling that service provides, because I know this for sure, that doing good actually makes you better. So, whatever field you choose, if you operate from the paradigm of service, I know your life will have more value and you will be happy.

I was always happy doing my talk show, but that happiness reached a depth of fulfillment, of joy, that I really can’t describe to you or measure when I stopped just being on TV and looking at TV as a job and decided to use television, to use it and not have it use me, to use it as a platform to serve my viewers. That alone changed the trajectory of my success.

So, I know this – that whether you’re an actor, you offer your talent in the way that most inspires art. If you’re an anatomist, you look at your gift as knowledge and service to healing. Whether you’ve been called, as so many of you here today getting doctorates and other degrees, to the professions of business, law, engineering, humanities, science, medicine, if you choose to offer your skills and talent in service, when you choose the paradigm of service, looking at life through that paradigm, it turns everything you do from a job into a gift. And I know you haven’t spent all this time at Stanford just to go out and get a job.

You’ve been enriched in countless ways. There’s no better way to make your mark on the world and to share that abundance with others. My constant prayer for myself is to be used in service for the greater good.

So, let me end with one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King. Dr. King said, “Not everybody can be famous.” And I don’t know, but everybody today seems to want to be famous.

But fame is a trip. People follow you to the bathroom, listen to you pee. It’s just – try to pee quietly. It doesn’t matter, they come out and say, “Ohmigod, it’s you. You peed.”

That’s the fame trip, so I don’t know if you want that.

So, Dr. King said, “Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” Those of you who are history scholars may know the rest of that passage. He said, “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato or Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

In a few moments, you’ll all be officially Stanford’s ’08.

You have the heart and the smarts to go with it. And it’s up to you to decide, really, where will you now use those gifts? You’ve got the diploma, so go out and get the lessons, ’cause I know great things are sure to come.

You know, I’ve always believed that everything is better when you share it, so before I go, I wanted to share a graduation gift with you. Underneath your seats you’ll find two of my favorite books. Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is my current book club selection. Our New Earth webcast has been downloaded 30 million times with that book. And Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future has reassured me I’m in the right direction.

I really wanted to give you cars [laughter] but I just couldn’t pull that off! Congratulations, ’08! [long cheers and applause]

Thank you. Thank you.

Oprah talks to graduates about feelings, failure and finding happiness (edited transcript) – https://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/june18/como-061808.html

Full video with subtitles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bpd3raj8xww


(1) Riley B. King (1925–2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists. King is one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of the Blues”.

(2) Barbara Jill Walters (1929 – ) is an American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality. Walters has hosted a variety of television programs, including Today, The View, 20/20, and the ABC Evening News. Since retirement as a full-time host and contributor, she continued to occasionally report for ABC News through 2015.

(3) Daniel H. Pink (1964 –) is an American author, journalist, and television host. He has written six books, including four New York Times bestsellers. He was host and co-executive producer of the 2014 National Geographic Channel social science TV series Crowd Control. From 1995 to 1997, he was the chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.

(4) Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917–2000) was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on 1 May 1950, for Annie Allen, making her the first African American to receive the Pulitzer.

Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II (1961– ) is the 44th President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. He served three terms representing the 13th District in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004.

Following an unsuccessful bid against the Democratic incumbent for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 2000, Obama ran for the United States Senate in 2004. Several events brought him to national attention during the campaign, including his victory in the March 2004 Illinois Democratic primary for the Senate election and his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He won election to the U.S. Senate in Illinois in November 2004. His presidential campaign began in February 2007, and after a close campaign in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries against Hillary Rodham Clinton, he won his party’s nomination. In the 2008 presidential election, he defeated Republican nominee John McCain, and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. In 2009, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize.

As president, Obama signed economic stimulus legislation in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Other domestic policy initiatives include the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and the Budget Control Act of 2011. In foreign policy, he ended the war in Iraq, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, ordered US involvement in the 2011 Libya military intervention, and ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. In April 2011, Obama declared his intention to seek re-election in the 2012 presidential election.


“The audacity of hope” (2004)

When he spoke to the Democratic National Convention in support of Senator John Kerry, the party’s presidential nominee against George W. Bush, Barack Obama was an obscure state senator running for the U.S. Senate. His soaring speech made the case for putting aside partisan differences and bringing Americans together; it also introduced him to the country and meant that he was instantly tipped to become a future president.


This speech is evaluated by The Telegraph as one of the Top 25 political speeches of all time.

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

[cheers and applause] Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, Land of Lincoln, let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention.

Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. [cheers and applause]

While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. [cheers and applause] Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty; joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through F.H.A., and later moved west all the way to Hawaii in search of opportunity. [applause]

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter. A common dream, born of two continents.

My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or “blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. [cheers and applause] They imagined – They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential. [cheers and applause]

They’re both passed away now. And yet, I know that on this night they look down on me with great pride.

They stand here – And I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. [cheers and applause]

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our Nation – not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, [cheers and applause] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That is the true genius of America, [cheers and applause] a faith – a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted – at least most of the time. [long cheers and applause]

This year, in this election we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we’re measuring up to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.

And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, I say to you tonight: We have more work to do [cheers and applause] – more work to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour; more to do for the father that I met who was losing his job and choking back the tears, wondering how he would pay 4500 dollars a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on; more to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The people I meet – in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks – they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead, and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted, by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon. [cheers and applause] Go in – Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn; they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things. [cheers and applause]

People don’t expect – People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.

They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our Party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry. [cheers, whistles and applause]

John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and service because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam, to his years as a prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he’s devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available.

His values and his record affirm what is best in us. John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded; so instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home. [cheers and applause]

John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves. [cheers and applause]

John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies, or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. [cheers and applause]

John Kerry believes in the Constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties, nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. [long cheers and applause]

And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option. [cheers and applause]

You know, a while back – awhile back I met a young man named Shamus in a V.F.W. Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid – six two, six three, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week. And as I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for in a child.

But then I asked myself, “Are we serving Shamus as well as he is serving us?”

I thought of the 900 men and women – sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who won’t be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I’ve met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists. [applause]

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world. [cheers, whistles, shanting and applause]

Now – Now let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.

John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper – for alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we’re all connected as one people. If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. [cheers and applause] If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. [cheers and applause]

It is that fundamental belief – It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. [cheers and applause] It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us – the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. [cheers and applause] There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America. [cheers and applause]

[This part is missing in the video: The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.]

In the end – In the end – In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope? [answering: “hope”]

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism here – the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. [cheers and applause]

Hope – Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us.

America! Tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do – if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as President, and John Edwards will be sworn in as Vice President, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.

Thank you very much everybody. God bless you. Thank you. [long cheers and applause]

Barack Obama 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address (with full audio recording and video) – http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/convention2004/barackobama2004dnc.htm

Victory speech (2008)

4 November 2008, Chicago

Democrat Barack Obama has become the first African-American to win the White House. Here are his remarks to a huge crowd in his home city of Chicago, with sub-headings added.

This speech is evaluated as one of 50 Incredible, Historical Speeches You Should Watch Online by the website OnlineUniversities.

Change has come

Barack Obama acceptance speech 04-Nov-2008.
Barack Obama: “tonight is your answer”

Hello Chicago!

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. [cheers]

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. [cheers and applause]

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. [cheers and applause]

Partners in the journey

A little bit earlier this evening I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. [applause] He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him, I congratulate Governor Palin, for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead. [cheers and applause]

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice-president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden. [cheers and applause]

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady, Michelle Obama. [cheers and applause] Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. [cheers and applause]

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure. To my sister Maya, my sister Auma, all my other brothers and sisters – thank you so much for all the support you have given me. I am grateful to them. [cheers and applause]

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, [cheers and applause] the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best… the best, I think, political campaign in the history of the United States of America. [cheers and applause] To my chief strategist David Axelrod, who has been a partner with me every step of the way, and to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

Victory for the people

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy [cheers and applause]; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; it grew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory. [cheers and applause]

The task ahead

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for their child’s college education. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

Remaking the nation

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there. [cheers, applause, and chants]

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

One nation, one people

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.

Those are values that we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. [cheers and applause]As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours: “We are not enemies, but friends… though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too. [cheers, whistles and applause]

America in the world

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. [cheers, whistles and applause]

To those who would tear the world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you.

And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope. [cheers, whistles and applause]

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

A history of struggle

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. [whistles and applause]

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery(1), the hoses in Birmingham(2), a bridge in Selma(3), and a preacher from Atlanta(4) who told a people that “we shall overcome”(5). Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

This is our moment

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: yes, we can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Obama’s victory speech http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/us_elections_2008/7710038.stm

Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnvUUauFJ98


(1) The buses in Montgomery: On 1 December 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks rejected bus driver James F. Blake’s order to relinquish her seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. The incidence inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year, the first major direct action campaign of the post-war civil rights movement. Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols of the movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

(2) The hoses in Birmingham: In the spring of 1963, activists in Birmingham, Alabama, launched one of the most influential campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement: The Birmingham Campaign. It would be the beginning of a series of lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall and boycotts on downtown merchants to protest segregation laws in the city. Over the next couple months, the peaceful demonstrations would be met with violent attacks using high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs on men, women and children alike – producing some of the most iconic and troubling images of the Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham Campaign ended with a victory in May of 1963 when local officials agreed to remove “White Only” and “Black Only” signs from restrooms and drinking fountains in downtown Birmingham; desegregate lunch counters; deploy a “Negro job improvement plan”; release jailed demonstrators; and create a biracial committee to monitor the agreement.

(3) A bridge in Selma: The Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on 7 March 1965. It occurred when armed police attacked and brutally beat Civil Rights Movement demonstrators with horses, billy clubs, and tear gas after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Dallas County in an attempt to march to the state capital, Montgomery. Law enforcement beat Amelia Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The marchers crossed the bridge again on March 21 and successfully walked to the Capitol building.

(4) A preacher from Atlanta: Martin Luther King Sr. led the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and became a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, as the head of the NAACP chapter in Atlanta. He was the father and namesake of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whom he encouraged to become active in the movement.

(5) We shall overcome: this is the name of a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1957, Pete Seeger sang this song for a Highlander audience that included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who remarked on the way to his next stop, in Kentucky, about how much the song had stuck with him.

“A new beginning” (2009)

On 4 June 2009, United States President Barack Obama delivered a speech entitled “A New Beginning” at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar University co-hosted the event. The speech honors a promise Obama made during his presidential campaign to give a major address to Muslims from a Muslim capital during his first few months as president.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated that Egypt was chosen because “it is a country that in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world.” Egypt is considered a key player in the Middle East peace process as well as a major recipient of American military and economic aid. Reuters reporter Ross Colvin reported that the speech would attempt to mend the United States’ relations with the Muslim world, which he wrote were “severely damaged” during the presidency of George W. Bush.


Section headings have been added to the speech for readability.


Thank you so much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

Islam and the United States

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity, and this cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do today – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart. Now, part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam at places like Al-Azhar that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires, timeless poetry and cherished music, elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our Universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores, and that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hajib (sic), and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere; when a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk; when one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations; when violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean; when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace, for human history has often been a record of nations and tribes, and yes, religions, subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership. Our progress must be shared.

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

Major sources of tension

Violent extremism

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I am aware that there are still some who question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Now, make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Now, let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future, and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Now, the second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories, while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations large and small that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history, from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them and all of us to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. And Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past. America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

Nuclear proliferation

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build. I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation, including Iran, should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.


The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed by (sic) one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

Religious freedom

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, and the heart, and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld, whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And, if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. That’s why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue, and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action, whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

Women’s rights

The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know, and you can tell from this audience that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Economic development and opportunity

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations, including America, this change can bring fear – fear that because of modernity we lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. Today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.


The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many, Muslim and non-Muslim, who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country, you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort, to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward. It is easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion: that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us, “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.

A New Beginninghttp://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_New_Beginning

Commencement Address at Howard University (2016)

With the end of his term on the horizon and a successor on the campaign trail, Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Howard University on 7 May 2016, encouraging thousands of mostly black graduates to change the US through civic action and compromise.

In the 40-minute address, Obama was equally light-hearted, cracking inside jokes about campus eateries and dormitories, and serious in his charge of graduates to fight for change and justice.

The president also urged the younger generation to channel their indignation into action.

In a likely allusion to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose rallies have been disrupted by progressive activists, Obama also discouraged graduates from trying to shut down the speeches and events of people they disagree with.

Obama’s relationship to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), such as Howard, has been complicated, and the Ivy League-educated president has sometimes been accused of keeping the institutions at arm’s length.

According to the Department of Education, overall federal funding to HBCUs is down slightly from 2008, after a peak during 2009-2010 thanks to Obama’s ARRA stimulus package. In addition, some of the policies the administration has taken up to slow the ballooning growth of student loan debt have had a disproportionate impact on HBCU students, who often come from less wealthy households than students nationwide.

But at Howard on Saturday, it was all celebration. The crowd erupted into cheers of “Obama, Obama” several times and offered the president a raucous applause as he approached the lectern. Howard president Wayne Frederick also addressed some of the critiques of the president. He declared that Obama had “addressed our educational needs to the fullest measure, by radically reforming the trillion-dollar student loan program” and called him a “noble and courageous 21st-century visionary”.


Barack Obama at Howard University, 2016
Barack Obama at Howard University, 2016

Obama: Thank you! Hello, Howard! [applause] H-U!

Audience: You know!

Obama: H-U!

Audience: You know!

Obama: [laughter] Thank you so much, everybody. Please, please, have a seat. Oh, I feel important now. Got a degree from Howard. Cicely Tyson said something nice about me. [laughter]

Audience: I love you, President!

Obama: I love you back.

To President Frederick, the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, fellow recipients of honorary degrees, thank you for the honor of spending this day with you. And congratulations to the Class of 2016! [applause] Four years ago, back when you were just freshmen, I understand many of you came by my house the night I was reelected. [laughter] So I decided to return the favor and come by yours.

To the parents, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, all the family and friends who stood by this class, cheered them on, helped them get here today – this is your day, as well. Let’s give them a big round of applause, as well. [applause]

I’m not trying to stir up any rivalries here; I just want to see who’s in the house. We got Quad? [applause] Annex. [applause] Drew. Carver. Slow. Towers. And Meridian. [applause] Rest in peace, Meridian. [laughter] Rest in peace.

I know you’re all excited today. You might be a little tired, as well. Some of you were up all night making sure your credits were in order. [laughter] Some of you stayed up too late, ended up at HoChi at 2:00 a.m. [laughter] Got some mambo sauce on your fingers. [laughter]

But you got here. And you’ve all worked hard to reach this day. You’ve shuttled between challenging classes and Greek life. You’ve led clubs, played an instrument or a sport. You volunteered, you interned. You held down one, two, maybe three jobs. You’ve made lifelong friends and discovered exactly what you’re made of. The “Howard Hustle” has strengthened your sense of purpose and ambition.

Which means you’re part of a long line of Howard graduates. Some are on this stage today. Some are in the audience. That spirit of achievement and special responsibility has defined this campus ever since the Freedman’s Bureau established Howard just four years after the Emancipation Proclamation; just two years after the Civil War came to an end. They created this university with a vision – a vision of uplift; a vision for an America where our fates would be determined not by our race, gender, religion or creed, but where we would be free – in every sense – to pursue our individual and collective dreams.

It is that spirit that’s made Howard a centerpiece of African-American intellectual life and a central part of our larger American story. This institution has been the home of many firsts: The first black Nobel Peace Prize winner. The first black Supreme Court justice. But its mission has been to ensure those firsts were not the last. Countless scholars, professionals, artists, and leaders from every field received their training here. The generations of men and women who walked through this yard helped reform our government, cure disease, grow a black middle class, advance civil rights, shape our culture. The seeds of change – for all Americans – were sown here. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that when I was first elected President, most of you – the Class of 2016 – were just starting high school. Today, you’re graduating college. I used to joke about being old. Now I realize I’m old. [laughter] It’s not a joke anymore. [laughter]

But seeing all of you here gives me some perspective. It makes me reflect on the changes that I’ve seen over my own lifetime. So let me begin with what may sound like a controversial statement – a hot take.

Given the current state of our political rhetoric and debate, let me say something that may be controversial, and that is this: America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college. [applause] Let me repeat: America is by almost every measure better than it was when I graduated from college. It also happens to be better off than when I took office – (laughter) – but that’s a longer story. [applause] That’s a different discussion for another speech.

But think about it. I graduated in 1983. New York City, America’s largest city, where I lived at the time, had endured a decade marked by crime and deterioration and near bankruptcy. And many cities were in similar shape. Our nation had gone through years of economic stagnation, the stranglehold of foreign oil, a recession where unemployment nearly scraped 11 percent. The auto industry was getting its clock cleaned by foreign competition. And don’t even get me started on the clothes and the hairstyles. I’ve tried to eliminate all photos of me from this period. I thought I looked good. [laughter] I was wrong.

Since that year – since the year I graduated – the poverty rate is down. Americans with college degrees, that rate is up. Crime rates are down. America’s cities have undergone a renaissance. There are more women in the workforce. They’re earning more money. We’ve cut teen pregnancy in half. We’ve slashed the African American dropout rate by almost 60 percent, and all of you have a computer in your pocket that gives you the world at the touch of a button. In 1983, I was part of fewer than 10 percent of African Americans who graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Today, you’re part of the more than 20 percent who will. And more than half of blacks say we’re better off than our parents were at our age – and that our kids will be better off, too.

So America is better. And the world is better, too. A wall came down in Berlin. An Iron Curtain was torn asunder. The obscenity of apartheid came to an end. A young generation in Belfast and London have grown up without ever having to think about IRA bombings. In just the past 16 years, we’ve come from a world without marriage equality to one where it’s a reality in nearly two dozen countries. Around the world, more people live in democracies. We’ve lifted more than 1 billion people from extreme poverty. We’ve cut the child mortality rate worldwide by more than half.

America is better. The world is better. And stay with me now – race relations are better since I graduated. That’s the truth. No, my election did not create a post-racial society. I don’t know who was propagating that notion. That was not mine. But the election itself – and the subsequent one – because the first one, folks might have made a mistake. [laughter] The second one, they knew what they were getting. The election itself was just one indicator of how attitudes had changed.

In my inaugural address, I remarked that just 60 years earlier, my father might not have been served in a D.C. restaurant – at least not certain of them. There were no black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Very few black judges. Shoot, as Larry Wilmore pointed out last week, a lot of folks didn’t even think blacks had the tools to be a quarterback. Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time – he owns the team. [laughter] When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T. [laughter] Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground. Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world. [laughter] We’re no longer only entertainers, we’re producers, studio executives. No longer small business owners – we’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States. [applause]

I am not saying gaps do not persist. Obviously, they do. Racism persists. Inequality persists. Don’t worry – I’m going to get to that. But I wanted to start, Class of 2016, by opening your eyes to the moment that you are in. If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be – what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into – you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago. You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You’d choose right now. If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, “young, gifted, and black” in America, you would choose right now. [applause]

I tell you all this because it’s important to note progress. Because to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice, to the legions of foot soldiers; to not only the incredibly accomplished individuals who have already been mentioned, but your mothers and your dads, and grandparents and great grandparents, who marched and toiled and suffered and overcame to make this day possible. I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to spur you into action – because there’s still so much more work to do, so many more miles to travel. And America needs you to gladly, happily take up that work. You all have some work to do. So enjoy the party, because you’re going to be busy. [laughter]

Yes, our economy has recovered from crisis stronger than almost any other in the world. But there are folks of all races who are still hurting – who still can’t find work that pays enough to keep the lights on, who still can’t save for retirement. We’ve still got a big racial gap in economic opportunity. The overall unemployment rate is 5 percent, but the black unemployment rate is almost nine. We’ve still got an achievement gap when black boys and girls graduate high school and college at lower rates than white boys and white girls. Harriet Tubman may be going on the twenty, but we’ve still got a gender gap when a black woman working full-time still earns just 66 percent of what a white man gets paid. [applause]

We’ve got a justice gap when too many black boys and girls pass through a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails. This is one area where things have gotten worse. When I was in college, about half a million people in America were behind bars. Today, there are about 2.2 million. Black men are about six times likelier to be in prison right now than white men.

Around the world, we’ve still got challenges to solve that threaten everybody in the 21st century – old scourges like disease and conflict, but also new challenges, from terrorism and climate change.

So make no mistake, Class of 2016 – you’ve got plenty of work to do. But as complicated and sometimes intractable as these challenges may seem, the truth is that your generation is better positioned than any before you to meet those challenges, to flip the script.

Now, how you do that, how you meet these challenges, how you bring about change will ultimately be up to you. My generation, like all generations, is too confined by our own experience, too invested in our own biases, too stuck in our ways to provide much of the new thinking that will be required. But us old-heads have learned a few things that might be useful in your journey. So with the rest of my time, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how young leaders like you can fulfill your destiny and shape our collective future – bend it in the direction of justice and equality and freedom.

First of all – and this should not be a problem for this group – be confident in your heritage. [applause] Be confident in your blackness. One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough. [laughter] In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office. There’s no straitjacket, there’s no constraints, there’s no litmus test for authenticity.

Look at Howard. One thing most folks don’t know about Howard is how diverse it is. When you arrived here, some of you were like, oh, they’ve got black people in Iowa? [laughter] But it’s true – this class comes from big cities and rural communities, and some of you crossed oceans to study here. You shatter stereotypes. Some of you come from a long line of Bison. Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from college. [applause] You all talk different, you all dress different. You’re Lakers fans, Celtics fans, maybe even some hockey fans. [laughter]

And because of those who’ve come before you, you have models to follow. You can work for a company, or start your own. You can go into politics, or run an organization that holds politicians accountable. You can write a book that wins the National Book Award, or you can write the new run of “Black Panther.” Or, like one of your alumni, Ta-Nehisi Coates, you can go ahead and just do both. You can create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality. Think about an icon we just lost – Prince. He blew up categories. People didn’t know what Prince was doing. [laughter] And folks loved him for it.

You need to have the same confidence. Or as my daughters tell me all the time, “You be you, Daddy.” [laughter] Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it – “You do you, Daddy.” [laughter] And because you’re a black person doing whatever it is that you’re doing, that makes it a black thing. Feel confident.

Second, even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans – and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle. That means we cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history. [applause] We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement. We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.

And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky – because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude. But we must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.

Number three: You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing. At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer – all five-feet-four-inches tall – gave a fiery speech on the national stage. But then she went back home to Mississippi and organized cotton pickers. And she didn’t have the tools and technology where you can whip up a movement in minutes. She had to go door to door. And I’m so proud of the new guard of black civil rights leaders who understand this. It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened – white, black, Democrat, Republican – to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system.

But to bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough. It requires changes in law, changes in custom. If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you: How are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal justice reform bill now pending before them? [applause] If you care about better policing, do you know who your district attorney is? Do you know who your state’s attorney general is? Do you know the difference? Do you know who appoints the police chief and who writes the police training manual? Find out who they are, what their responsibilities are. Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver. Passion is vital, but you’ve got to have a strategy.

And your plan better include voting – not just some of the time, but all the time. [applause] It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote. There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting. This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote. And there’s a reason for that. There’s a legacy to that.

But let me say this: Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world. In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms – the secondlowest participation rate on record. Youth turnout – that would be you – was less than 20 percent. Less than 20 percent. Four out of five did not vote. In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out. And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out. You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with? And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done? How come he didn’t get that done? You don’t think that made a difference? What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country? People try to make this political thing really complicated. Like, what kind of reforms do we need? And how do we need to do that? You know what, just vote. It’s math. If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want. [laughter] It’s not that complicated.

And you don’t have excuses. You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote. You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot. Other people already did that for you. [applause] Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it. What’s your excuse? When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves – right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are – the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.

So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it’s time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired. It’s your duty. When it’s time to elect a member of Congress or a city councilman, or a school board member, or a sheriff. That’s how we change our politics – by electing people at every level who are representative of and accountable to us. It is not that complicated. Don’t make it complicated.

And finally, change requires more than just speaking out – it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise. When I was a state senator, I helped pass Illinois’s first racial profiling law, and one of the first laws in the nation requiring the videotaping of confessions in capital cases. And we were successful because, early on, I engaged law enforcement. I didn’t say to them, oh, you guys are so racist, you need to do something. I understood, as many of you do, that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good, and honest, and courageous, and fair, and love the communities they serve.

And we knew there were some bad apples, and that even the good cops with the best of intentions – including, by the way, African American police officers – might have unconscious biases, as we all do. So we engaged and we listened, and we kept working until we built consensus. And because we took the time to listen, we crafted legislation that was good for the police – because it improved the trust and cooperation of the community – and it was good for the communities, who were less likely to be treated unfairly. And I can say this unequivocally: Without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those bills passed. Very simple. They would have blocked them.

The point is, you need allies in a democracy. That’s just the way it is. It can be frustrating and it can be slow. But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse. That’s not just true in this country. It’s not a black or white thing. Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that’s never been the source of our progress. That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress.

We remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory, the power of his letter from a Birmingham jail, the marches he led. But he also sat down with President Johnson in the Oval Office to try and get a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act passed. And those two seminal bills were not perfect – just like the Emancipation Proclamation was a war document as much as it was some clarion call for freedom. Those mileposts of our progress were not perfect. They did not make up for centuries of slavery or Jim Crow or eliminate racism or provide for 40 acres and a mule. But they made things better. And you know what, I will take better every time. I always tell my staff – better is good, because you consolidate your gains and then you move on to the next fight from a stronger position.

Brittany Packnett, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and Campaign Zero, one of the Ferguson protest organizers, she joined our Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Some of her fellow activists questioned whether she should participate. She rolled up her sleeves and sat at the same table with big city police chiefs and prosecutors. And because she did, she ended up shaping many of the recommendations of that task force. And those recommendations are now being adopted across the country – changes that many of the protesters called for. If young activists like Brittany had refused to participate out of some sense of ideological purity, then those great ideas would have just remained ideas. But she did participate. And that’s how change happens.

America is big and it is boisterous and it is more diverse than ever. The president told me that we’ve got a significant Nepalese contingent here at Howard. I would not have guessed that. Right on. But it just tells you how interconnected we’re becoming. And with so many folks from so many places, converging, we are not always going to agree with each other.

Another Howard alum, Zora Neale Hurston, once said – this is a good quote here: “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.” Think about that. That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.

So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that – no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them. Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice. But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas. And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you – you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks. [laughter] I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life. That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair. Nobody promised you a crystal stair. And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.

So that’s my advice. That’s how you change things. Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go. Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.

That’s what Thurgood Marshall understood – a man who once walked this year, graduated from Howard Law; went home to Baltimore, started his own law practice. He and his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, rolled up their sleeves and they set out to overturn segregation. They worked through the NAACP. Filed dozens of lawsuits, fought dozens of cases. And after nearly 20 years of effort – 20 years – Thurgood Marshall ultimately succeeded in bringing his righteous cause before the Supreme Court, and securing the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that separate could never be equal. [applause] Twenty years.

Marshall, Houston – they knew it would not be easy. They knew it would not be quick. They knew all sorts of obstacles would stand in their way. They knew that even if they won, that would just be the beginning of a longer march to equality. But they had discipline. They had persistence. They had faith – and a sense of humor. And they made life better for all Americans.

And I know you graduates share those qualities. I know it because I’ve learned about some of the young people graduating here today. There’s a young woman named Ciearra Jefferson, who’s graduating with you. And I’m just going to use her as an example. I hope you don’t mind, Ciearra. Ciearra grew up in Detroit and was raised by a poor single mom who worked seven days a week in an auto plant. And for a time, her family found themselves without a place to call home. They bounced around between friends and family who might take them in. By her senior year, Ciearra was up at 5:00 am every day, juggling homework, extracurricular activities, volunteering, all while taking care of her little sister. But she knew that education was her ticket to a better life. So she never gave up. Pushed herself to excel. This daughter of a single mom who works on the assembly line turned down a full scholarship to Harvard to come to Howard. [applause]

And today, like many of you, Ciearra is the first in her family to graduate from college. And then, she says, she’s going to go back to her hometown, just like Thurgood Marshall did, to make sure all the working folks she grew up with have access to the health care they need and deserve. As she puts it, she’s going to be a “change agent.” She’s going to reach back and help folks like her succeed.

And people like Ciearra are why I remain optimistic about America. [applause] Young people like you are why I never give in to despair.

James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Graduates, each of us is only here because someone else faced down challenges for us. We are only who we are because someone else struggled and sacrificed for us. That’s not just Thurgood Marshall’s story, or Ciearra’s story, or my story, or your story – that is the story of America. A story whispered by slaves in the cotton fields, the song of marchers in Selma, the dream of a King in the shadow of Lincoln. The prayer of immigrants who set out for a new world. The roar of women demanding the vote. The rallying cry of workers who built America. And the GIs who bled overseas for our freedom.

Now it’s your turn. And the good news is, you’re ready. And when your journey seems too hard, and when you run into a chorus of cynics who tell you that you’re being foolish to keep believing or that you can’t do something, or that you should just give up, or you should just settle – you might say to yourself a little phrase that I’ve found handy these last eight years: Yes, we can.

Congratulations, Class of 2016! [applause] Good luck! God bless you. God bless the United States of America. I’m proud of you.

Obama’s full remarks at Howard University commencement ceremonyhttps://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/obamas-howard-commencement-transcript-222931

President Obama Delivers the Commencement Address at Howard University (full video) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K4MctEmkmI

Steven Jobs

Steven Jobs (1955-2011) was an American computer executive, who cofounded Apple Computer, one of the first manufacturers of personal computers. Jobs went to high school in Los Altos, California, and attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Palo Alto after school. He attracted the attention of the company president and was hired as a summer employee. He worked there with Stephen Wozniak, an electronics inventor. In 1972 Jobs graduated from high school and entered Reed College, but he dropped out after one semester. He joined Atari in 1974 as a designer of video games. After several months he quit his job and made a trip to India in search of spiritual enlightenment.

Upon his return to California, Jobs found that Wozniak, who still worked for Hewlett-Packard, had become involved with a group of young electronics enthusiasts in a computer club. Jobs, who was interested in marketing, persuaded Wozniak to work with him. Together they designed and built a prototype of the Apple I, a preassembled computer circuit board, in Jobs’s parents’ garage. A local electronics equipment retailer ordered 25 of the machines, and Wozniak quit his job to become the vice president in charge of research and development of the new venture. They formed the Apple Computer Company in April 1976. Eventually Steve Jobs became CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios

“You’ve got to find what you love” (2005)

This is the text of the Stanford Commencement Address by Steve Jobs, delivered on June 12, 2005.

This speech is evaluated as one of 50 Incredible, Historical Speeches You Should Watch Online by the website OnlineUniversities.

Steve Jobs 2
Steve Jobs delivering Stanford Commencement Address

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation – the Macintosh – a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs sayshttp://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

Full video with sub-titles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

Kofi Annan

Kofi Atta Annan (1938–2018) was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.

Farewell Address (2006)

At the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, December 11, 2006

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan

What a pleasure, and a privilege, to be here in Missouri. It’s almost a homecoming for me. Nearly half a century ago, I was a student about 400 miles north of here, in Minnesota. I arrived there straight from Africa, and I can tell you, Minnesota soon taught me the value of a thick overcoat, a warm scarf and even ear-muffs!

When you leave one home for another, there are always lessons to be learned. And I had more to learn when I moved on from Minnesota to the United Nations – the indispensable common house of the entire human family, which has been my main home for the last 44 years. Today, I want to talk particularly about five lessons I have learned in the last 10 years, during which I have had the difficult but exhilarating role of secretary-general.

I think it’s especially fitting that I do that here in the house that honors the legacy of Harry S. Truman. If FDR was the architect of the United Nations, President Truman was the master-builder, and the faithful champion of the organization in its first years, when it had to face quite different problems from the ones FDR had expected. Truman’s name will forever be associated with the memory of farsighted American leadership in a great global endeavor. And you will see that every one of my five lessons brings me to the conclusion that such leadership is no less sorely needed now than it was 60 years ago.

My first lesson is that, in today’s world, the security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else.

That was already true in Truman’s time. The man who in 1945 gave the order for nuclear weapons to be used – for the first, and let us hope, the only time in history – understood that security for some could never again be achieved at the price of insecurity for others. He was determined, as he had told the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, to”prevent, if human mind, heart, and hope can prevent it, the repetition of the disaster (meaning the world war) from which the entire world will suffer for years to come.”

He believed strongly that, henceforth, security must be collective and indivisible. That was why, for instance, he insisted, when faced with aggression by North Korea against the South in 1950, on bringing the issue to the United Nations and placing U.S. troops under the U.N. flag, at the head of a multinational force.

But how much more true it is in our open world today: a world where deadly weapons can be obtained not only by rogue states but by extremist groups; a world where SARS, or avian flu, can be carried across oceans, let alone national borders, in a matter of hours; a world where failed states in the heart of Asia or Africa can become havens for terrorists; a world where even the climate is changing in ways that will affect the lives of everyone on the planet.

Against such threats as these, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others. We all share responsibility for each other’s security, and only by working to make each other secure can we hope to achieve lasting security for ourselves.

And I would add that this responsibility is not simply a matter of states being ready to come to each other’s aid when attacked, important though that is. It also includes our shared responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – a responsibility solemnly accepted by all nations at last year’s U.N. summit. That means that respect for national sovereignty can no longer be used as a shield by governments intent on massacring their own people, or as an excuse for the rest of us to do nothing when such heinous crimes are committed.

But, as Truman said, “If we should pay merely lip service to inspiring ideals, and later do violence to simple justice, we would draw down upon us the bitter wrath of generations yet unborn.” And when I look at the murder, rape and starvation to which the people of Darfur are being subjected, I fear that we have not got far beyond “lip service.” The lesson he re is that high-sounding doctrines like the “responsibility to protect” will remain pure rhetoric unless and until those with the power to intervene effectively – by exerting political, economic or, in the last resort, military muscle – are prepared to take the lead.

And I believe we have a responsibility not only to our contemporaries but also to future generations – a responsibility to preserve resources that belong to them as well as to us, and without which none of us can survive. That means we must do much more, and urgently, to prevent or slow down climate change. Every day that we do nothing, or too little, imposes higher costs on our children and our children’s children.

My second lesson is that we are not only all responsible for each other’s security. We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other’s welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible.

It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity, no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure. That applies to national societies – as all the great industrial democracies learned in the 20th century – but it also applies to the increasingly integrated global market economy we live in today. It is not realistic to think that some people can go on deriving great benefits from globalization while billions of their fellow human beings are left in abject poverty, or even thrown into it. We have to give our fellow citizens, not only within each nation but in the global community, at least a chance to share in our prosperity.

That is why, five years ago, the U.N. Millennium Summit adopted a set of goals – the “Millennium Development Goals” – to be reached by 2015: goals such as halving the proportion of people in the world who don’t have clean water to drink; making sure all girls, as well as boys, receive at least primary education; slashing infant and maternal mortality; and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Much of that can only be done by governments and people in the poor countries themselves. But richer countries, too, have a vital role. Here too, Harry Truman proved himself a pioneer, proposing in his 1949 inaugural address a program of what came to be known as development assistance. And our success in mobilizing donor countries to support the Millennium Development Goals, through debt relief and increased foreign aid, convinces me that global solidarity is not only necessary but possible.

Of course, foreign aid by itself is not enough. Today, we realize that market access, fair terms of trade, and a non-discriminatory financial system are equally vital to the chances of poor countries. Even in the next few weeks and months, you Americans can make a crucial difference to many millions of poor people, if you are prepared to save the Doha Round of trade negotiations. You can do that by putting your broader national interest above that of some powerful sectional lobbies, while challenging Europe and the large developing countries to do the same.

My third lesson is that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Although increasingly interdependent, our world continues to be divided – not only by economic differences, but also by religion and culture. That is not in itself a problem. Throughout history, human life has been enriched by diversity, and different communities have learned from each other. But if our different communities are to live together in peace, we must stress also what unites us: our common humanity, and our shared belief that human dignity and rights should be protected by law.

That is vital for development, too. Both foreign investors and a country’s own citizens are more likely to engage in productive activity when their basic rights are protected and they can be confident of fair treatment under the law. And policies that genuinely favor economic development are much more likely to be adopted if the people most in need of development can make their voice heard.

In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, “We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might.” That’s why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human-rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.

And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. It is doing the right thing. No state can make its own actions legitimate in the eyes of others. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose – for broadly shared aims – in accordance with broadly accepted norms.

No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little – and the international community is among them. This we must change.

The U.S. has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, “We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.”

My fourth lesson – closely related to the last one – is that governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one.

Today, the actions of one state can often have a decisive effect on the lives of people in other states. So does it not owe some account to those other states and their citizens, as well as to its own? I believe it does.

As things stand, accountability between states is highly skewed. Poor and weak states are easily held to account, because they need foreign assistance. But large and powerful states, whose actions have the greatest impact on others, can be constrained only by their own people, working through their domestic institutions.

That gives the people and institutions of such powerful states a special responsibility to take account of global views and interests, as well as national ones. And today they need to take into account also the views of what, in U.N. jargon, we call “non-state actors.” I mean commercial corporations, charities and pressure groups, labor unions, philanthropic foundations, universities and think tanks – all the myriad forms in which people come together voluntarily to think about, or try to change, the world.

None of these should be allowed to substitute itself for the state, or for the democratic process by which citizens choose their governments and decide policy. But they all have the capacity to influence political processes, on the international as well as the national level. States that try to ignore this are hiding their heads in the sand.

The fact is that states can no longer – if they ever could – confront global challenges alone. Increasingly, we need to enlist the help of these other actors, both in working out global strategies and in putting those strategies into action once agreed. It has been one of my guiding principles as secretary-general to get them to help achieve U.N. aims – for instance, through the Global Compact with international business, which I initiated in 1999, or in the worldwide fight against polio, which I hope is now in its final chapter, thanks to a wonderful partnership between the U.N. family, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and – crucially – Rotary International.

So that is four lessons. Let me briefly remind you of them:

  • First, we are all responsible for each other’s security.
  • Second, we can and must give everyone the chance to benefit from global prosperity.
  • Third, both security and prosperity depend on human rights and the rule of law.
  • Fourth, states must be accountable to each other, and to a broad range of non-state actors, in their international conduct.

My fifth and final lesson derives inescapably from those other four. We can only do all these things by working together through a multilateral system, and by making the best possible use of the unique instrument bequeathed to us by Harry Truman and his contemporaries, namely the United Nations.

In fact, it is only through multilateral institutions that states can hold each other to account. And that makes it very important to organize those institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong.

That applies particularly to the international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Developing countries should have a stronger voice in these bodies, whose decisions can have almost a life-or-death impact on their fate. And it also applies to the U.N. Security Council, whose membership still reflects the reality of 1945, not of today’s world.

That’s why I have continued to press for Security Council reform. But reform involves two separate issues. One is that new members should be added, on a permanent or long-term basis, to give greater representation to parts of the world which have limited voice today. The other, perhaps even more important, is that all council members, and especially the major powers who are permanent members, must accept the special responsibility that comes with their privilege. The Security Council is not just another stage on which to act out national interests. It is the management committee, if you will, of our fledgling collective security system.

As President Truman said, “the responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world.” He showed what can be achieved when the U.S. assumes that responsibility. And still today, none of our global institutions can accomplish much when the U.S. remains aloof. But when it is fully engaged, the sky’s the limit.

These five lessons can be summed up as five principles, which I believe are essential for the future conduct of international relations: collective responsibility, global solidarity, the rule of law, mutual accountability, and multilateralism. Let me leave them with you, in solemn trust, as I hand over to a new secretary-general in three weeks’ time.

My friends, we have achieved much since 1945, when the United Nations was established. But much remains to be done to put those five principles into practice.

Standing here, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s last visit to the White House, just before Truman left office in 1953. Churchill recalled their only previous meeting, at the Potsdam conference in 1945. “I must confess, sir,” he said boldly, “I held you in very low regard then. I loathed your taking the place of Franklin Roosevelt.” Then he paused for a moment, and continued: “I misjudged you badly. Since that time, you more than any other man, have saved Western civilization.”

My friends, our challenge today is not to save Western civilization – or Eastern, for that matter. All civilization is at stake, and we can save it only if all peoples join together in the task.

You Americans did so much, in the last century, to build an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart. Do you need it less today, and does it need you less, than 60 years ago?

Surely not. More than ever today, Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world’s peoples can face global challenges together. And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.

I hope and pray that the American leaders of today, and tomorrow, will provide it.

Thank you very much.

Harry S. Truman Library & Museumhttp://trumanlibrary.org/annan.htm

“Imagine an African continent…” (2013)

Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), and fellow panel members launched the Africa Progress Report (APR) on 10 May 2013 at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. The title of the APR 2013 is “Equity in Extractives: Stewarding Africa’s natural resources for all”. Ahead of the launch, Mr. Annan prepared a video to accompany the report. Here is his message to Africa titled “Imagine an African continent…”

The 2013 Africa Progress Report dubbed, “Equity in Extractives: Stewarding Africa’s natural resources for all” will be launched on May 10 in South Africa. Mr. Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel (Geneva) made this video to accompany the soon to be released report.

Imagine an African continent, where leaders use mineral wealth wisely to fund better health, education, energy, and infrastructure too.

Africa, our continent has oil, gas, platinum, diamonds, cobalt, copper, and more. If we use these resources wisely, they will improve the lives of millions of Africans. If we don’t, they can fuel corruption, conflict, and social instability.

Transparency and accountability are key. The US and Europe are demanding new transparency from companies who work in Africa. We must also take responsibility. Our governments may have become more open. Big businesses may have improved their ways of working. But we – Africans –must do so much more.

This issue is too big for the politicians and big business to manage without the involvement of civil society. I’m Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Africa Progress Panel. Work with me to demand more transparency from Africa’s national leaders and foreign investors. What are they doing?

How much is it worth? And how will the money be spent? Because this is our continent, our minerals, our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

Africa Policy Forumhttp://africanpolicyforum.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:kofi-annan-tackle-corruption&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus.jpg
Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus (1940– ) is a Bangladeshi economist and founder of the Grameen Bank, an institution that provides microcredit (small loans to poor people possessing no collateral) to help its clients establish creditworthiness and financial self-sufficiency. In 2006 Yunus and Grameen received the Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus himself has received several other national and international honors.

He is a member of advisory board at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was a professor of economics at Chittagong University where he developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. He is the author of Banker to the Poor and two books on Social Business Models, and a founding board member of Grameen America and Grameen Foundation. In 1996, Yunus introduced mobile phones to rural villages. Grameen Intel is just one of hundreds of public and private partnerships now mediated through Youth & Yunus. In early 2007 Yunus showed interest in launching a political party in Bangladesh named Nagorik Shakti (Citizen Power), but later discarded the plan. He is one of the founding members of Global Elders.

Yunus also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN.

Professor Yunus was chosen by Wharton School of Business for PBS documentary, as one of ‘The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years’. In 2006, Time magazine listed him under “60 years of Asian Heroes” as one of the top 12 business leaders. In 2008, in an open online poll, Yunus was voted the 2nd topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States).


“Poor people are bonsai people” (2006)

In a destitute country facing famine, natural disasters, and a beleaguered government, Muhammad Yunus saw an opportunity to help people one by one, and built an organization of others helping poor people help themselves. Yunus’s Grameen Bank, through micro-lending of small loans of toward local agriculture and commerce, has seen over a 90% repayment of loans and helped one out of a thousand people on earth. Beyond loans, Grameen fosters community development through regular meetings with borrowers and group educational programs. This enterprise of meeting the needs of the poor through enabling struggling people with resources to become their own producers earned Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank the Nobel Peace Prize — rather than the prize for Economics; this was tribute to the meaningful stability created by empowering the disenfranchised.

Going further, Yunus and the Grameen Bank created businesses that partnered with major companies to serve the people of Bangladesh, such as Grameen Danone, a company that sells nutritious yogurt to inner city children made with milk bought from outlying farmers. As Yunus says, “To me, poor people are like Bonsai trees. There is nothing wrong with their seeds, only society didn’t give them the base to grow on.”

Nobel Lecture, Oslo, December 10, 2006.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Grameen Bank and I are deeply honoured to receive this most prestigious of awards. We are thrilled and overwhelmed by this honour. Since the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, I have received endless messages from around the world, but what moves me most are the calls I get almost daily, from the borrowers of Grameen Bank in remote Bangladeshi villages, who just want to say how proud they are to have received this recognition.

Nine elected representatives of the 7 million borrowers-cum-owners of Grameen Bank have accompanied me all the way to Oslo to receive the prize. I express thanks on their behalf to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for choosing Grameen Bank for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. By giving their institution the most prestigious prize in the world, you give them unparalleled honour. Thanks to your prize, nine proud women from the villages of Bangladesh are at the ceremony today as Nobel laureates, giving an altogether new meaning to the Nobel Peace Prize.

All borrowers of Grameen Bank are celebrating this day as the greatest day of their lives. They are gathering around the nearest television set in their villages all over Bangladesh, along with other villagers, to watch the proceedings of this ceremony.

This years’ prize gives highest honour and dignity to the hundreds of millions of women all around the world who struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for a better life for their children. This is a historic moment for them.

Poverty is a Threat to Peace

Ladies and Gentlemen:

By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.

World’s income distribution gives a very telling story. Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.

The new millennium began with a great global dream. World leaders gathered at the United Nations in 2000 and adopted, among others, a historic goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015. Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size. But then came September 11 and the Iraq war, and suddenly the world became derailed from the pursuit of this dream, with the attention of world leaders shifting from the war on poverty to the war on terrorism. Till now over $ 530 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq by the USA alone.

I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action. Terrorism must be condemned in the strongest language. We must stand solidly against it, and find all the means to end it. We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.

Poverty is Denial of All Human Rights

Peace should be understood in a human way − in a broad social, political and economic way. Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights.

Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.

The creation of opportunities for the majority of people − the poor − is at the heart of the work that we have dedicated ourselves to during the past 30 years.

Grameen Bank

I became involved in the poverty issue not as a policymaker or a researcher. I became involved because poverty was all around me, and I could not turn away from it. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease. That brought me face to face with poor people’s struggle to find the tiniest amounts of money to support their efforts to eke out a living. I was shocked to discover a woman in the village, borrowing less than a dollar from the money-lender, on the condition that he would have the exclusive right to buy all she produces at the price he decides. This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor.

I decided to make a list of the victims of this money-lending “business” in the village next door to our campus.

When my list was done, it had the names of 42 victims who borrowed a total amount of US $27. I offered US $27 from my own pocket to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders. The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?

That is what I have been trying to do ever since. The first thing I did was to try to persuade the bank located in the campus to lend money to the poor. But that did not work. The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy. After all my efforts, over several months, failed I offered to become a guarantor for the loans to the poor. I was stunned by the result. The poor paid back their loans, on time, every time! But still I kept confronting difficulties in expanding the program through the existing banks. That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank or Village bank.

Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income generating, housing, student and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members. Since it introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.

In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. Financially, it is self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of Grameen Bank today amount to 143 per cent of all outstanding loans. According to Grameen Bank’s internal survey, 58 per cent of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line.

Grameen Bank was born as a tiny homegrown project run with the help of several of my students, all local girls and boys. Three of these students are still with me in Grameen Bank, after all these years, as its topmost executives. They are here today to receive this honour you give us.

This idea, which began in Jobra, a small village in Bangladesh, has spread around the world and there are now Grameen type programs in almost every country.

Second Generation

It is 30 years now since we began. We keep looking at the children of our borrowers to see what has been the impact of our work on their lives. The women who are our borrowers always gave topmost priority to the children. One of the Sixteen Decisions developed and followed by them was to send children to school. Grameen Bank encouraged them, and before long all the children were going to school. Many of these children made it to the top of their class. We wanted to celebrate that, so we introduced scholarships for talented students. Grameen Bank now gives 30,000 scholarships every year.

Many of the children went on to higher education to become doctors, engineers, college teachers and other professionals. We introduced student loans to make it easy for Grameen students to complete higher education. Now some of them have PhD’s. There are 13,000 students on student loans. Over 7,000 students are now added to this number annually.

We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families way out of the reach of poverty. We want to make a break in the historical continuation of poverty.

Beggars Can Turn to Business

In Bangladesh 80 percent of the poor families have already been reached with microcredit. We are hoping that by 2010, 100 per cent of the poor families will be reached.

Three years ago we started an exclusive programme focusing on the beggars. None of Grameen Bank’s rules apply to them. Loans are interest-free; they can pay whatever amount they wish, whenever they wish. We gave them the idea to carry small merchandise such as snacks, toys or household items, when they went from house to house for begging. The idea worked. There are now 85,000 beggars in the program. About 5,000 of them have already stopped begging completely. Typical loan to a beggar is $12.

We encourage and support every conceivable intervention to help the poor fight out of poverty. We always advocate microcredit in addition to all other interventions, arguing that microcredit makes those interventions work better.

Information Technology for the Poor

Information and communication technology (ICT) is quickly changing the world, creating distanceless, borderless world of instantaneous communications. Increasingly, it is becoming less and less costly. I saw an opportunity for the poor people to change their lives if this technology could be brought to them to meet their needs.

As a first step to bring ICT to the poor we created a mobile phone company, Grameen Phone. We gave loans from Grameen Bank to the poor women to buy mobile phones to sell phone services in the villages. We saw the synergy between microcredit and ICT.

The phone business was a success and became a coveted enterprise for Grameen borrowers. Telephone-ladies quickly learned and innovated the ropes of the telephone business, and it has become the quickest way to get out of poverty and to earn social respectability. Today there are nearly 300,000 telephone ladies providing telephone service in all the villages of Bangladesh. Grameen Phone has more than 10 million subscribers, and is the largest mobile phone company in the country. Although the number of telephone-ladies is only a small fraction of the total number of subscribers, they generate 19 per cent of the revenue of the company. Out of the nine board members who are attending this grand ceremony today 4 are telephone-ladies.

Grameen Phone is a joint-venture company owned by Telenor of Norway and Grameen Telecom of Bangladesh. Telenor owns 62 per cent share of the company, Grameen Telecom owns 38 per cent. Our vision was to ultimately convert this company into a social business by giving majority ownership to the poor women of Grameen Bank. We are working towards that goal. Someday Grameen Phone will become another example of a big enterprise owned by the poor.

Free Market Economy

Capitalism centers on the free market. It is claimed that the freer the market, the better is the result of capitalism in solving the questions of what, how, and for whom. It is also claimed that the individual search for personal gains brings collective optimal result.

I am in favor of strengthening the freedom of the market. At the same time, I am very unhappy about the conceptual restrictions imposed on the players in the market. This originates from the assumption that entrepreneurs are one-dimensional human beings, who are dedicated to one mission in their business lives − to maximize profit. This interpretation of capitalism insulates the entrepreneurs from all political, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental dimensions of their lives. This was done perhaps as a reasonable simplification, but it stripped away the very essentials of human life.

Human beings are a wonderful creation embodied with limitless human qualities and capabilities. Our theoretical constructs should make room for the blossoming of those qualities, not assume them away.

Many of the world’s problems exist because of this restriction on the players of free-market. The world has not resolved the problem of crushing poverty that half of its population suffers. Healthcare remains out of the reach of the majority of the world population. The country with the richest and freest market fails to provide healthcare for one-fifth of its population.

We have remained so impressed by the success of the free-market that we never dared to express any doubt about our basic assumption. To make it worse, we worked extra hard to transform ourselves, as closely as possible, into the one-dimensional human beings as conceptualized in the theory, to allow smooth functioning of free market mechanism.

By defining “entrepreneur” in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market. Let us suppose an entrepreneur, instead of having a single source of motivation (such as, maximizing profit), now has two sources of motivation, which are mutually exclusive, but equally compelling − a) maximization of profit and b) doing good to people and the world.

Each type of motivation will lead to a separate kind of business. Let us call the first type of business a profit-maximizing business, and the second type of business as social business.

Social business will be a new kind of business introduced in the market place with the objective of making a difference in the world. Investors in the social business could get back their investment, but will not take any dividend from the company. Profit would be ploughed back into the company to expand its outreach and improve the quality of its product or service. A social business will be a non-loss, non-dividend company.

Once social business is recognized in law, many existing companies will come forward to create social businesses in addition to their foundation activities. Many activists from the non-profit sector will also find this an attractive option. Unlike the non-profit sector where one needs to collect donations to keep activities going, a social business will be self-sustaining and create surplus for expansion since it is a non-loss enterprise. Social business will go into a new type of capital market of its own, to raise capital.

Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge, which excites them, within the present capitalist world. Socialism gave them a dream to fight for. Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own.

Almost all social and economic problems of the world will be addressed through social businesses. The challenge is to innovate business models and apply them to produce desired social results cost-effectively and efficiently. Healthcare for the poor, financial services for the poor, information technology for the poor, education and training for the poor, marketing for the poor, renewable energy − these are all exciting areas for social businesses.

Social business is important because it addresses very vital concerns of mankind. It can change the lives of the bottom 60 per cent of world population and help them to get out of poverty.

Grameen’s Social Business

Even profit maximizing companies can be designed as social businesses by giving full or majority ownership to the poor. This constitutes a second type of social business. Grameen Bank falls under this category of social business.

The poor could get the shares of these companies as gifts by donors, or they could buy the shares with their own money. The borrowers with their own money buy Grameen Bank shares, which cannot be transferred to non-borrowers. A committed professional team does the day-to-day running of the bank.

Bilateral and multi-lateral donors could easily create this type of social business. When a donor gives a loan or a grant to build a bridge in the recipient country, it could create a “bridge company” owned by the local poor. A committed management company could be given the responsibility of running the company. Profit of the company will go to the local poor as dividend, and towards building more bridges. Many infrastructure projects, like roads, highways, airports, seaports, utility companies could all be built in this manner.

Grameen has created two social businesses of the first type. One is a yogurt factory, to produce fortified yogurt to bring nutrition to malnourished children, in a joint venture with Danone. It will continue to expand until all malnourished children of Bangladesh are reached with this yogurt. Another is a chain of eye-care hospitals. Each hospital will undertake 10,000 cataract surgeries per year at differentiated prices to the rich and the poor.

Social Stock Market

To connect investors with social businesses, we need to create social stock market where only the shares of social businesses will be traded. An investor will come to this stock-exchange with a clear intention of finding a social business, which has a mission of his liking. Anyone who wants to make money will go to the existing stock-market.

To enable a social stock-exchange to perform properly, we will need to create rating agencies, standardization of terminology, definitions, impact measurement tools, reporting formats, and new financial publications, such as, The Social Wall Street Journal. Business schools will offer courses and business management degrees on social businesses to train young managers how to manage social business enterprises in the most efficient manner, and, most of all, to inspire them to become social business entrepreneurs themselves.

Role of Social Businesses in Globalization

I support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaw will be thrown off the highway. In order to have a win-win globalization we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and traffic authority for this global highway. Rule of “strongest takes it all” must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong. Globalization must not become financial imperialism.

Powerful multi-national social businesses can be created to retain the benefit of globalization for the poor people and poor countries. Social businesses will either bring ownership to the poor people, or keep the profit within the poor countries, since taking dividends will not be their objective. Direct foreign investment by foreign social businesses will be exciting news for recipient countries. Building strong economies in the poor countries by protecting their national interest from plundering companies will be a major area of interest for the social businesses.

We Create What We Want

We get what we want, or what we don’t refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.

We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want.

What we want and how we get to it depends on our mindsets. It is extremely difficult to change mindsets once they are formed. We create the world in accordance with our mindset. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mindset quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our mindset.

We Can Put Poverty in the Museums

I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social system that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.

Poverty is created because we built our theoretical framework on assumptions which under-estimates human capacity, by designing concepts, which are too narrow (such as concept of business, credit- worthiness, entrepreneurship, employment) or developing institutions, which remain half-done (such as financial institutions, where poor are left out). Poverty is caused by the failure at the conceptual level, rather than any lack of capability on the part of people.

I firmly believe that we can create a poverty-free world if we collectively believe in it. In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums. When school children take a tour of the poverty museums, they would be horrified to see the misery and indignity that some human beings had to go through. They would blame their forefathers for tolerating this inhuman condition, which existed for so long, for so many people.

A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution.

Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.

To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.

Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by expressing my deep gratitude to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing that poor people, and especially poor women, have both the potential and the right to live a decent life, and that microcredit helps to unleash that potential.

I believe this honor that you give us will inspire many more bold initiatives around the world to make a historical breakthrough in ending global poverty.

Thank you very much.

Muhammad Yunus – Nobel Lecturehttp://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/yunus-lecture-en.html

Bill Gates

William Henry Gates III (1955– ) is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), president and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014. He is one of the best-known entrepreneurs and pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.

Later in his career and since leaving day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008, Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors. He donated large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reported to be the world’s largest private charity.

In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge, whereby they and other billionaires pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy. The foundation works to save lives and improve global health, and is working with Rotary International to eliminate polio.


“Don’t let complexity stop you” (2007)

On 7 June 2007, 34 years after dropping out, William Henry Gates III returned to Harvard and delivered a powerful commencement speech to graduating students of the university.

(Text as prepared for delivery)

Bill Gates

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Members of the Harvard Family: Here in the Yard is one of the great collections of intellectual talent in the world.

What for?

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Good luck.

Remarks of Bill Gates, Harvard Commencement 2007http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/06/remarks-of-bill-gates-harvard-commencement-2007/

Full video with sub-titles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx5N6Lh3sw

Randy Pausch

Randolph Frederick Pausch (1960–2008) was an American Associate Professor of computer science, human–computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006. On 19 September 2006, Pausch underwent a pancreaticoduodenectomy to remove the malignant tumor from his pancreas. In August 2007, after doctors discovered that the cancer had recurred, Pausch was given a terminal diagnosis and was told to expect a remaining three to six months of good health.

He gave an upbeat lecture titled The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams on September 18, 2007, at Carnegie Mellon, which became a popular YouTube video and led to other media appearances. He then co-authored a book called The Last Lecture on the same theme, which became a New York Times best-seller.

Pausch died of complications from pancreatic cancer on 25 July 2008.

“Really achieving your childhood dreams” (2007)

“Really achieving your childhood dreams” was a lecture given by Randy Pausch on 18 September 2007.

The “Last Lecture” series at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, was designed to let senior academics imagine what message they would impart to history given one final chance, normally bẻoe they retire. But before Randy Pausch, a professor in both the university’s human-computer interaction institute and its school of design, took the podium, the series name had been changed to “Journeys”.

Pausch had learned just weeks earlier that his pancreatic cancer has metastasised to his liver and pleen; he had been given a maximum of six months to have good health.

During the moving lecture, Pausch was upbeat and humorous, performing push-ups on stage, alternating between wisecracks, insights on computer science and engineering education, advice on building multi-disciplinary collaborations, working in groups and interacting with other people, offering the students inspirational life lessons on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

Pausch delivered his talk to a full hall. But by a remarkable sequence of events, it turned him into a media phenomenon.

Beginning by showing slides of the malign tumors in his liver, Pausch talked about his goal of living with “childlike wonder” and spoke of childhood dreams he had achieved – but pointed out he had learned valuable lessons from both the TV show and from playing high school football.

Pausch’s talk might never have gone beyond campus memory had it not been for the intervention of Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist and Carnegie Mellon graduate, who had heard about the circumstances of the event and driven from Chicago to attend. His resulting column, and link to a video of the lecture on the journal’s website, produced an amazing example of electronic instant celebrity. The video gained an enormous response.

Pausch was born in Baltimore, where his father sold insurance and his mother was a teacher. His parents founded a group called Up With Kids to teach immigrant children English, and indulged young Randy’s imagination, letting him paint on the walls of his bedroom. After graduating in computer science from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1982, he was accepted on his second try at Carnegie Mellon, where he earned his doctorate in computer science in 1988. He then taught at the University of Virginia until 1997, when he returned to Carnegie Mellon as an associate professor.

His course, Building Virtual Worlds, was extremely popular, and included an annual “virtual reality” contest. He devised a program to mimic the effects of weightlessness, and co-created a program called Alice, which used games to teach young people, particularly girls, computer programming. During sabbaticals, he worked with Disney Imagineering to create an Aladdin ride for Disney World, and was a consultant to Electronic Arts, maker of video games.


You are encouraged to watch the full-length video in which you can see also the slides that Pausch showed in his lecture.

This speech is evaluated as one of 50 Incredible, Historical Speeches You Should Watch Online by the website OnlineUniversities.

The compiler of this post thinks this is one of the most inspirational speeches.

Introduction by Indira Nair, Carnegie Mellon’s Vice Provost for Education:

Hi. Welcome. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to the first of our new university’s lectures titled Journeys – lectures in which members of our community will share with us reflections and insights on their personal and professional journeys. Today’s Journey’s lecture as you all know is by Professor Randy Pausch. The next one is on Monday, September 24th by Professor Roberta Klatzky.

To introduce Professor Randy Pausch, our first Journeys speaker, I would like to introduce Randy’s friend and colleague, Steve Seabolt. Steve has been at Electronic Arts for six years and is the Vice President of Global Brand Development for The Sims label at Electronic Arts. As you all know, The Sims is one of the most, if not the most successful PC games in the world, with sales approaching over $100,000,000. Prior to that, Steve was the Vice President for Strategic Marketing and Education at EA, bridging academia and Electronic Arts. His goal was to work with academics so there was an effective educational pathway for kids with building games as their dreams. It was in that role that Randy and Steve became colleagues and friends. Before Electronic Arts, Steve was the worldwide Ad Director for Time Magazine and CEO of Sunset Publishing, which is a very favorite magazine in the Southwest, and as CEO there, one of the things he started was school tours, because like Randy he shares a passion for inspiring kids of all ages to share their excitement for science and technology.

So to introduce Randy, his friend Steve Seabolt. Steve? [applause]

Steve Seabolt, Vice President of Worldwide Publishing and Marketing for Electonic Arts (EA):

Thank you very much. I don’t mean to sound ungracious by correcting you, but given that our PR people are probably watching this on webcast, I’d catch heck if I went home and didn’t say that it was 100 million units for The Sims. [laughter] Not that big numbers matter to Electronic Arts. [laughter]

I don’t see any empty seats anywhere, which is a good thing, which means I just won a bet from Randy as a matter of fact. Depending upon who’s version of the story you hear, he either owes me 20 dollars or his new Volkswagen. [laughter] So, I’ll take the car.

It’s a pleasure to be here, thank you very much. I’m going to start by covering Randy’s academic credentials. It’s a little bizarre for me to be standing here at Carnegie Mellon, which is a school I couldn’t get into no matter how much I contributed to this institution. [laughter] But, no really, I’m not kidding! You all think, oh gosh he’s humble. Really, no, I’m not humble at all. Very average SAT scores, you know, right in the middle of my high school class of 900. Anyway, Randy. Randy earned – it really pisses me off that Randy’s so smart—actually I called him, we decided about, what, four weeks, ago and we heard the news went from bad to horrific. It was on a Wednesday night and I said look – we have two choices. We can play this really straight and very emotional, or we can go to dark humor. And for those of you who know Randy well, he was like oh, dark humor! So I called him the next day and I was like, dude you can’t die. And he’s like, what do you mean? And I said, well, when you die, the average of IQ of Seabolt’s friends is going to like drop 50 points. [laughter] To which he responded, we need to find you some smarter friends. [laughter] So you’re all smart because you’re here, so if you want to be my friend, I’ll be over in a corner of the reception room.

Randy earned his undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Brown in 1982. His Ph.D. in CS from Carnegie Mellon in 1988 and taught at the University of Virginia where he was granted tenure a year early. He joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in 1997 with appointments in the CS, HCI and Design departments. He has authored or co-authored five books and over 60 reviewed journal and conference proceeding articles, none of which I would understand. With Don Marinelli, he founded the Entertainment Technology Center, which quickly became the gold standard organization for training artists and engineers to work together. It is my view and the view of our company, Electronic Arts, that the ETC is the interactive program by which all others in the world are judged.

I met Randy in the Spring of 2004, and when I look back it’s sort of hard to imagine it’s only been three years given the depth of our friendship. The ETC already had a very strong relationship with EA and with Randy. And Randy as he always does, for those of you who know him well, wanted to learn more, with his own eyes, about how the games business works, and how games really got made. So he spent a summer in residence at EA, and I was his primary contact point. We were in my view the odd couple. Randy the brilliant, charming, Carnegie educated CS professor. And me who went to the University of Iowa on a wing and a prayer. We spent a lot of time together that semester and for those of you who know Randy well, that’s a lot of turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo. [laughter, clapping] My kids tease me about being “white.” There’s nobody more “white” than Randy. [laughter] We spent an enormous amount of time together. We taught each other about each other’s very interesting, strange cultures to the other. Academic versus the corporate world. And we developed a deep friendship woven together with stories about our kids, our wives, our parents, as well as deep discussions about the paramount nature of integrity in everything you do, family first, religion, our shared joy in connecting people and ideas, and deploying money and influence to do good. And the importance of having a lot of laughs along the way.

Randy’s dedication to making the world a better place is self evident to anyone who has crossed paths with him. Whether it’s directly influencing students, creating organizations like the ETC, building tools like Alice or doing what he probably does best, which is bridging cultures. As Ben Gordon, EA’s Chief Creative Officer, says of Randy, even more important than Randy’s academic, philanthropic, and entrepreneurial accomplishments has been his humanity and the enthusiasm he brings to students and coworkers on a daily basis.

For those of you who know Randy, Randy brings a particular zest for life and humor, even while facing death. To Randy, this is simply another adventure. It is my great honor to introduce Dylan, Logan and Chloe’s dad, Jai’s husband, and my very dear friend, Dr. Randy Pausch. [applause]

Randy Pausch:

[responding to a standing ovation] Make me earn it. [laughter]

It’s wonderful to be here. What Indira didn’t tell you is that this lecture series used to be called “The Last Lecture”. If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would it be? I thought, “Damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it.” [laughter]

So, in case there’s anybody who wandered in and doesn’t know the back story, my Dad always taught me when there’s an elephant in the room, introduce them. If you look at my CAT scans, there are approximately 10 tumors in my liver and the doctors told me three to six months of good health left. That was a month ago, so you can do the math. I have some of the best doctors in the world.

So, that is what it is. We can’t change it and we just have to decide how we’re going to respond to that. We can not change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you. [laughter]

And I assure you, I am not in denial. It’s not like I’m not aware of what’s going on. My family, my three kids, my wife, we just decamped. We bought a lovely house in Chesapeake, Virginia, near Norfolk and we’re doing that because that’s a better place for the family to be, down the road.

And the other thing is, I am in phenomenally good health right now. I mean, it’s the greatest thing of cognitive dissonance you will ever see is the fact that I am in really good shape. In fact, I’m in better shape than most of you. [doing push-ups in applause] So anybody who wants to cry or pity me, can come down and do a few of those and then you may pity me. [laughter]

All right, so what we’re not talking about today. We’re not talking about cancer. Because I spend a lot of time talking about that and I’m really not interested. If you have any herbal supplements or remedies, please stay away from me. [laughter]

And we’re not going to talk about things that are even more important than achieving your childhood dreams. We’re not going to talk about my wife, we’re not gonna talk about my kids. Because I’m good, but I’m not good enough to talk about that without tearing up. So, we’re just gonna take that off the table. That’s much more important.

And we’re not gonna talk about spirituality and religion. Although, I will tell you that I have experienced a death bed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh. [laughter and applause] Now I knew I’d get nine percent of the audience with that, [laughter] but …

All right, so what is today’s talk about then? It’s about my childhood dreams. And how I’ve achieved them. I’ve been very fortunate that way. How I believe I’ve been able to enable the dreams of others. And to some degree, lessons learned. I’m a professor. There should be some lessons learned. And how you can use the stuff you hear today to achieve your dreams or enable the dreams of others. And as you get older, you may find that enable the dreams of others thing is even more fun.

So, what were my childhood dreams? Well, you know, I had a really good childhood. I mean, no kidding around. I was going back through the family archives and what was really amazing was, I couldn’t find any pictures of me as a kid where I wasn’t smiling. Right? And that was just a very gratifying thing. There was our dog. Awe, thank you. And there, I actually have a picture of me dreaming. And I did a lot of that, you know. There was a lot of, “Wake up!”s, you know?

Randy Pausch

And it was an easy time to dream. I was born in 1960. Right? When you’re eight or nine years old and you look at the TV set and men are landing on the moon, anything is possible. And that’s something we should not lose sight of. Is that the inspiration and the permission to dream is huge.

So what were my childhood dreams? You may not agree with this list, but I was there. [laughter] Being in zero gravity. Playing in the National Football League. Authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia(1). I guess you can tell the nerds early. [laughter] Being Captain Kirk [in Star Trek]. Anybody here have that childhood dream? Not at CMU, no. I wanted to become one of the guys who won the big stuffed animals in the amusement park. And I wanted to be an Imagineer with Disney. These are not sorted in any particular order, although I do think they get harder, except for maybe the first one.

Okay, so being in zero gravity. Now it’s important to have specific dreams. I did not dream of being an astronaut because when I was a little kid, I wore glasses. And they told me, “Oh, astronauts can’t have glasses.” And I was like, “Mm,” I didn’t really want the whole astronaut gig. I just wanted the floating. [laughter] So, and as a child, prototype zero point zero. [laughter] But that didn’t work so well.

And it turns out that NASA has something called the “vomit comet” that they use to train the astronauts. And this thing does parabolic arcs. And at the top of each arc, you get about 25 seconds where you’re ballistic and you get about a rough equivalent of weightlessness for about 25 seconds. And there is a program where college students can submit proposals. And if they win the competition, they get to fly. And I thought that was really cool and we had a team, we put a team together. And they won and they got to fly. And I was all excited ’cause I was gonna go with them. And then I hit the first brick wall because they made it very clear that under no circumstances were faculty members allowed to fly with the teams.

I know, I was heartbroken. Right. I was like, “But, I worked so hard.” [chuckles] And so, I read the literature very carefully and it turns out that NASA, it’s part of their outreach and publicity program. And it turns out that the students were allowed to bring a local media journalist from their hometown. [laughter and applause] And, Randy Pausch, web journalist. It’s really easy to get a press pass.

So I call up the guys at NASA and I said, “I need to know where to fax some documents.” And they said, “What documents are going to fax us?” I said, “My resignation as the faculty advisor and my application as the journalist.” [chuckles] And he said, “That’s a little transparent. Don’t you think?” [laughter] And I said, “Yeah, but our project is virtual reality and we’re gonna bring down a whole bunch of VR headsets and all the students from all the teams are going to experience it. And all those other real journalists, are going to get to film it.”

Jim Foley’s going, “Oh, you bastard. Yes.” [laughter] And the guy said, “Here’s the fax number.” So, and indeed, we kept our end of the bargain. And that’s one of the themes that you’ll hear later on in the talk is, “Have something to bring to the table.” All right? Because that will make you more welcomed.

And if you’re curious about what zero gravity looks like, hopefully the sound will be working here. [slide shows videotape from Randy’s zero gravity experience] There I am. [slide shows videotape from Randy’s zero gravity experience] [laughter] You do pay the piper at the bottom. [laugher, as the people in the video crash to the floor of the plane on the video] So, childhood dream number one, check.

All right, let’s talk about football. My dream was to play in the National Football League. And most of you don’t know that I actually pl- [laugher] No. No, I did not make it to the National Football League. But, I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish.

I had a coach. I was signed up when I was nine years old. I was the smallest kid in the league, by far. And I had a coach, Jim Graham, who was six foot four. He had played linebacker at Penn State. He was just this hulk of a guy and he was old school. I mean really old school. Like, he thought the forward pass was a trick play. [laugher]

And he showed up for practice the first day and, you know, this big hulking guy, we were all scared to death of him. And he hadn’t brought any footballs. How are we gonna have practice without any footballs? And one of the other kids said, “Excuse me, coach, cut there’s no football.” And Coach Graham said, “Right. How many men are on a football field at a time?” So I said, “11 on a team, 22.” And Coach Graham said, “All right and how many people are touching the football at any given time?” “One of them.” And he said, “Right. So we’re gonna work on what those other 21 guys are doing.”

And that’s a really good story because it’s all about fundamentals. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve gotta get the fundamentals down because otherwise, the fancy stuff isn’t gonna work.

And the other Jim Graham story I have is, there was one practice where he just rode me, all practice. Just, “You’re doing this wrong. You’re doing this wrong. Go back and do it again. You owe me. You’re doing pushups after practice.” And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, “Yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “That’s a good thing.” He said, “When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.” And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that, when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

After Coach Graham, I had another coach, Coach Setliff and he taught me a lot about the power of enthusiasm. He did this one thing where only for one play at a time, he would put people in at like, the most horrifically wrong position for them. Like all the short guys would become receivers, right? It was just laughable. But we only went in for one play. Right? And boy, the other team just never knew what hit ’em. Because when you’re only doing it for one play and boys, you’re just not where you’re supposed to be and freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, boy, are you gonna clean somebody’s clock for that one play. And that kind of enthusiasm was great.

And to this day, I am most comfortable on a football field. I mean, it’s just one of those things where, if I’m working a hard problem, people will see me wandering the halls with one of these things. And that’s just because, you know, when you do something young enough and you train for it, it just becomes a part of you. And I’m very glad that football was a part of my life. And if I didn’t get the dream of playing in the NFL, that’s okay. I probably got stuff more valuable. Because looking at what’s going on in the NFL, I’m not sure those guys are doing so great right now. [chuckles]

Okay, and so, one of the expressions I learned in electronic arts, which I love, which pertains to this is, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” And I think that’s absolutely lovely.

And the other thing about football is, we send out kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m gonna call a head fake or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But, we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Team work, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera. And these kinds of head fake learnings are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.

All right, a simple one, being an author in the World Book Encyclopedia(1). When I was a kid, we had the World Book Encyclopedia on the shelf. For the freshman, this is paper. [laugher] We used to have these things called books. And after I had become somewhat of an authority on virtual reality, but not like a really important one, so I was at the level of people at the World Book would badger. They called me up and I wrote an article. And this is Katelyn Kellaher [shows slide of Caitlin wearing virtual reality headset manipulating a 3D world]. There’s an article, if you go to your local library where they still have copies of the World Book, look under V for virtual reality and there it is.

And all I have to say is that, having been selected to be an author in the World Book Encyclopedia, I know believe that Wikipedia is a perfectly fine source for your information [laugher] because I know what the quality control is for real encyclopedias. They let me in.

All right, next one. [shows slide “Being like Meeting Captain Kirk”] [laugher and applause] At a certain point, you just realize there’s some things you’re not gonna do, so maybe you just want to stand close to the people. And, I mean, my god, what a role model for young people. I mean, this is everything you want to be. And what I learned that carried me forward in leadership later is that, you know, he wasn’t the smartest guy on the ship. I mean, Spock was pretty smart in the ship and McCoy was the doctor and Scottie was the engineer. And you sort of go, and what skill set did he have to get on this damn thing and run it?

And, you know, clearly there is this skill set called leadership, and, you know, whether or not you like the series, there’s no doubt that there was a lot to be learned about how to lead people by watching this guy in action. And he just had the coolest damn toys! [shows slide of Star Trek gadgets] [laugher] I mean, my god, I just thought it was fascinating as a kid that he had this thing [Takes out Star Trek Communicator] and he could talk to the ship with it. I just thought that was just spectacular, and of course now I own one and it’s smaller. [takes out cell phone] [laugher] So that’s kind of cool.

So, I got to achieve this dream. James T Kirk, his alter ego, William Shatner(2), wrote a book. Which, I think, was actually a pretty cool book. It was with Chip Walter who’s a Pittsburgh-based author who’s quite good. And he wrote a book on basically the science of Star Trek, what has come true. And they went around to top places around the country and looked at various things and they came here to study our virtual reality set up. And so we built a virtual reality for him. It looks something like that. [shows slide of virtual Star Trek bridge from the 1960’s TV show] We put it in, put it to red alert. He was a very good sport. It’s not like he saw that one coming. [laugher] And it’s really cool to meet your boyhood idol. But it’s even cooler when he comes to you to see what cool stuff you’re doing in your lab. That was just a great moment.

Randy Pausch_Captain Kirk 2
Virtual reality

All right, winning stuffed animals. This may seems mundane to you, but when you’re a little kid and you see the big buff guys walking around in an amusement park and they got all these big stuffed animals, right? And this is my lovely wife. And I have a lot of pictures of stuffed animals I’ve won. [shows slides of several large stuffed animals] [laugher] That’s my Dad, posing with one that I won. I’ve won a lot of these animals. [laugher] There’s my Dad, he did win that one, to his credit. And this was just a big part of my life and my family’s life.

But you know, I can hear the cynics. You know, in this age of digitally manipulated things, maybe those bears aren’t really in the picture with me. Or maybe I paid somebody five bucks to take a picture in the theme park next to the bear. And I said, “How in this age of cynicism can I convince people?” And I said, “I know. I can show them the bears.” Bring them out. [several large stuffed animals are brought onto the stage] [laughter and clapping] You can just put them right there. You can just put them back against the wall.

Randy Pausch_stuffed animals
Several large stuffed animals are brought onto the stage

Jai Pausch (Randy’s wife):

It’s hard to hear you. [adjusts Randy’s microphone]

Randy Pausch:

Thanks honey. [laughter] So here’s some bears. We didn’t have quite enough room in the moving truck down to Chesapeake. And anybody who’d like a little piece of me at the end of this, feel free to come up, first come, first serve.

All right, my next one. Being an Imagineer. This was the hard one. Believe me, getting to zero gravity is easier than becoming an Imagineer. When I was a kid, I was eight years old and our family took a trip cross country to see Disneyland. And if you’ve ever seen the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, it was a lot like that. It was a quest. [shows slides of family at Disneyland]

And these are real vintage photographs. And there I am, in front of the castle. And there I am. For those of you who are into foreshadowing, this is the Alice ride. [laugher] And I just thought this was just the coolest environment I’d ever been in. And instead of saying, “Gee, I want to experience this,” I said, “I want to make stuff like this.”

And so I bided my time and then I graduated with PhD from Carnegie Mellon, thinking that meant me infinitely qualified to do anything. And I dashed off my letters of application to Walt Disney Imagineering and they sent me some of the damn nicest “go to hell” letters I’ve ever gotten. [laugher] I mean, it was just, “We have carefully reviewed your application and presently, we do not have any positions available which require your particular qualifications.”

Now think about the fact that you’re getting this from a place who’s famous for guys who sweep the street. So that was a bit of a set back. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. All right? The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because they brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

All right, fast forward to 1991. We did a system back at the University of Virginia called “Virtual Reality on Five Dollars a Day”. Just one of those unbelievable spectacular things. I was so scared back in those days as a junior academic. Jim Foley’s here and I just love to tell this story. He knew my undergraduate advisor, Andy VanDamm. And I’m at my first conference and I’m just scared to death and this icon in the user interface community walks up to me and out of nowhere just gives me this huge bear hug. And he says, “That was from Andy.” And that was when I thought, “Okay, maybe I can make it. Maybe I do belong.”

And a similar story is that this was just this unbelievable hit because, at the time, everybody needed a half a million dollars to do virtual reality. And everybody felt frustrated. And we literally hacked together a system for about $5,000 in parts and made a working VR system. And people were just like, “Oh my god.” This like, Hewlett-Packard garage thing. This is so awesome.

And so I’m giving this talk and the room has just gone wild. And during the Q and A, a guy named Tom Ferness, who was one of the big names in virtual reality at the time. He goes up to the microphone and he introduces himself. I didn’t know what he looked like, but I sure as hell knew the name. And he asked a question. And I was like, “I’m sorry, did you say you’re Tom Ferness?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Then I would love to answer your question, but first, will you have lunch with me tomorrow?” [laugher] And there’s a lot in that little moment. There’s a lot of humility, but also, asking a person where he can’t possibly say no. [laugher]

And so, Imagineering, a couple of years later was working on a virtual reality project. This was top secret. They were denying the existence of a virtual reality attraction after the time that the publicity department was running the TV commercials. So Imagineering really had nailed this one tight. And it was the Aladdin attraction where you would fly a magic carpet. And the head mounted display, sometimes known as gator vision. And so, I had an in. As soon as the project had just … You know, they started running the TV commercials and I had been asked to brief the Secretary of Defense on the state of virtual reality. Okay, Fred Brooks and I had been asked to brief the Secretary of Defense. And that gave me an excuse. So I called them up, I called Imagineering and I said, “Look, I’m briefing the Secretary of Defense. I’d like some materials on what you have ’cause it’s on of the best VR systems in the world.” And they kind of pushed back. And I said, “Look, is all this patriotism stuff in the parks a farce?” And they’re like, “Mm, okay.” They said, “This is so new that the PR department doesn’t have any footage for you so I’m gonna have to connect you straight through to the team who did the work.” Jackpot.

Randy Pausch_VR Aladdin
Aladdin attraction: flying a magic carpet

So I find myself on the phone with a guy named John Snoddy, who is one of the most impressive guys I have ever met. And he was the guy running this team. And it’s not surprising they had done impressive things. And so he sent me some stuff. We talked briefly, he sent me some stuff and I said, “Hey, I’m gonna be out in the area for a conference shortly. Would you like to get together and have lunch?” Translation: “I’m going to lie to you and say that I have an excuse to be in the area so I don’t look too anxious. But I would go to Neptune to have lunch with you.” [laugher]

And so John said sure. And I spent something like 80 hours talking with all the VR experts in the world, saying, “If you had access to this one unbelievable project, what would you ask?” And then I compiled all of that and I had to memorize it, which anybody who knows me knows that I have no memory at all. ‘Cause I couldn’t go in looking like a dweeb with, “Hi, question 72…”

So, I went in and this was like a two hour lunch. And John must have thought he was talking to some phenomenal person because I was doing was channeling Fred Brooks and Ivan Sutherland and Andy VanDamm and people like that. Henry Fooks. So, it’s pretty easy to be smart when you’re parodying smart people.

And at the end of the lunch with John, I sort of, as we say in the business, made the ask. And I said, “You know, I have a sabbatical coming up.” He said, “What’s that?” [laugher] The beginnings of the culture clash. And so, I talked to him about the possibility of coming there and working with him. And he said, “That’s really good, except, you know, you’re in the business of telling people stuff and we’re in the business of keeping secrets.” And then what made John Snoddy, John Snoddy, was he said, “But we’ll work it out.” Which I really loved.

The other thing that I learned from John Snoddy, I could do easily an hour long talk just on what’ve I learned from John Snoddy. One of the things he told me was that, wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. He said, “When you’re pissed off at somebody and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they’ll almost always impress you.” And that really stuck with me. I think he’s absolutely right on that one.

So, to make a long story short, we negotiated a legal contract. It was going to be the first, some people referred to it as the first and last paper ever published by Imagineering. But the deal was, I go, I provide my own funding, I go for six months, I work with the project, we publish a paper.

And then we meet our villain. I can’t be all sweetness and light, because I have no credibility. Somebody’s head’s gonna go on a stick. Turns out that the person who gets his head on a stick is a dean back at the University of Virginia. His name is not important, let’s call him Dean Wormer. [laugher and clapping] And Dena Wormer has a meeting with me where I say I want to do this sabbatical thing. And I’ve actually gotten the Imagineering guys to let an academic in, which is insane. I mean, if John hadn’t gone nuts, this would never have been a possibility. This is a very secretive organization.

And Dean Wormer looks at the paperwork and he says, “Well, it says they’re gonna own your intellectual property.” I said, “Yeah, we got the agreement to publish the paper. There is no other IP. I don’t do patentable stuff.” He says, “Yeah, but you might. So deal’s off. Just get them to change that little clause there and then come back to me.” I’m like, “Excuse me?” And then I said to him, “I want you to understand how important this is. If we can’t work this out, I’m going to take an unpaid leave of absence and I’m just gonna go there and I’m gonna do this thing.” And he said, “Hey, you know, I might not even let you do that. I mean, you’ve got the IP in your head already and maybe they’re gonna suck it out of you so that’s not gonna fly either.” [laugher]

It’s very important to know when you’re in a pissing match. And it’s very important to get out of it as quickly as possible. So I said to him, “Well, let’s back off on this. Do we think this is a good idea at all?” He said, “I have no idea if this is a good idea.” I was like, “Okay, well we’ve got common ground there.” Then I said, “Well, is this really your call? Isn’t this the call of the dean of sponsored research? If it’s an IP issue?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s true.” So I said, “If he’s happy, you’re happy?” “Yeah, then I’d be fine.” Like Wile E Coyote. And I find myself in Gene Block’s office, who’s the most fantastic man in the world.

And I start talking to Gene Block and I say, “Let’s start at the high level,” since I don’t want to have to back out again. I said, “Let’s start at the high level. Do you think this is a good idea?” He said, “Well, if you’re asking me if it’s a good idea, I don’t have very much information. All I know is that one of my start faculty members is in my office and he’s really excited, so tell me more.” Here’s a lesson for everybody in administration, they both said the same thing. But think about how they said it. Right? I don’t know. Well, I don’t have much information but one of my star faculty members is here and he’s all excited so I want to learn more. They’re both ways of saying “I don’t know” but boy, there’s a good way and a bad way. So anyway, we got it all worked out. I went to Imagineering. Sweetness and light. And all’s well that ends well.

Some brick walls are made of flesh. [laugher] So I worked on the Aladdin project. It was absolutely spectacular. I mean, just unbelievable. Here’s my nephew, Christopher. This was the apparatus. You would sit on this sort of motorcycle-type thing and you would steer your magic carpet and you would put on the head-mounted display. The head-mounted display was very interesting. It had two parts and it was a very, very clever design. To get throughput through, the only part that touched the guests’ head was this little cap and everything else clicked onto it, all the expensive hardware. So you could replicate the caps, because they were basically free to manufacture. And, this is what I really did, is I was a cap cleaner.

I loved Imagineering. It was just a spectacular place. Just spectacular. Everything that I had dreamed. I love the model shop. People crawling around on things the size of this room that are just big physical models. It was just an incredible place to walk around and be inspired. I’m always reminded, when I went there and people said “Do you think the expectations are too high?” And I said, “Did you ever see the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?” where Gene Wilder says to the little boy, Charlie, he’s about to give him the chocolate factory and he says, “Well, Charlie, did anybody ever tell you the story of the little boy who suddenly got everything he ever wanted?” Charlie’s eyes get like saucers and he says, “No, what happened to him?” Gene Wilder says, “He lived happily ever after.” [laugher]

Okay. So, working on the Aladdin VR, I describe it as a once in every five years opportunity and I stand by that assessment. It forever changed me. It wasn’t just that it was good work and I got to be a part of it, but it got me into the place of working with real people and real HCI user interface issues. Most HCI people live in this fantasy world of white collar laborers with PhDs and Masters degrees and, you know, until you got ice cream spilled on you, you’re not doing field work, right?

And, more than anything else, from Jon Snoddy, I learned how to put artists and engineers together, and that’s been the real legacy. We published a paper, just a nice academic cultural scandal. When we wrote the paper the guys at Imagineering said, well, let’s do a nice big picture, like you would in a magazine. And the SIGGRAPH committee, which accepted the paper, it was like this big scandal. Are they allowed to do that? [laugher] There was no rule. So we published the paper and, amazingly, since then there’s a tradition of SIGGRAPH papers having color figures on the first page. I, so I’ve changed the world in a small way. [laugher]

And then at the end of my six months, they came to me and they said, “You wanna do it for real? You can stay.” And I said, “No”. One of the only times in my life I have surprised my father. He was like, “You what?” He said, “Since you were, you know, all you wanted, and now you that you got it and you’re like huh?”

There was a bottle of Maalox in my desk drawer. Be careful what you wish for. It was a particularly stressful place. Imagineering, in general, is actually not so Maalox-laden, but the lab I was in … Oh, Jon left in the middle. It was a lot like the Soviet Union. It was a little dicey for a while, but it worked out okay. And, if they had said “Stay here or never walk in the building again”, I would have done it. I would have walked away from tenure. I would have just done it. But they made it easy on me. They said, “You can have your cake and eat it too”. And I basically become a day a week consultant for Imagineering and I did that for about ten years. And that’s one of the reasons you should all become professors, because you can have your cake and eat it too. Okay?

I went on and consulted on things like DisneyQuest. So there was the Virtual Jungle Cruise and the best interactive experience, I think, ever done, and Jesse Schell gets the credit for this, Pirates of the Caribbean. Wonderful at DisneyQuest.

And so, those are my childhood dreams. And, you know, that’s pretty good. I felt good about that. So, then the question becomes, how can I enable the childhood dreams of others? And again, boy, am I glad I became a professor. What better place to enable childhood dreams? Maybe working at EA, I don’t know, that’d probably be a good close second. But, and this started in a very concrete realization that I could do this because a young man named Tommy Burnett, when I was at the University of Virginia, came to me, was interested in joining my research group and we talked about it and he said, “Oh, and I have a childhood dream.” It gets pretty easy to recognize them when they tell you. And I said, “Yes, Tommy, what is your childhood dream?” He said, “I want to work on the next Star Wars film.” Now, you gotta remember the timing on this. Where is Tommy? Tommy is here today. What year would this have been? Your sophomore year?

Tommy: It was around 1993.

Randy Pausch: Are you breaking anything back there, young man? Okay. All right. So, in 1993. And I said to Tommy, “You know they’re probably not going to make those next movies.” [laugher] And he said, “No, they are.” [laugher] And, Tommy worked with me for a number of years as an undergraduate and then as a staff member, and then when I moved to Carnegie Mellon, every single member of my team came from Virginia to Carnegie Mellon except for Tommy because he got a better offer. And he did indeed work on all three of those films. So …

And then I said, well, that’s nice but, you know, one at a time is kind of inefficient. And people who know me know that I am an efficiency freak. So I said, “Can I do this en masse?” Can I get people turned in such a way that they can be turned onto their childhood dreams?

And I created a course, I came to Carnegie Mellon, I created a course called Building Virtual Worlds. It’s a very simple course. How many people have ever been to any of the shows? Okay. So you have a, some of you have an idea. For those of you who don’t, the course is very simple. There are 50 students drawn from all the different departments of the university. There are randomly chosen, randomly chosen teams. Four people per team, and they change every project. A project only lasts two weeks, so you do something, you make something, you show something, then I shuffle the teams. You get three new playmates, and you do it again. And, it’s every two weeks, and so you do five projects during the semester.

The first year we taught this course, it is impossible to describe how much of a tiger-by-the-tail we had. I was just running the course because I wanted to see if we could do it. We had just learned how to do texture mapping on 3D graphics and we could make stuff that looked half decent but, you know, we were running on really weak computers, by current standards. But I said, “I’ll give it a try.” And at my new university I made a couple of phone calls and I said I want to cross list this course to get all these other people. And within 24 hours it was cross-listed in five departments. I love this university. I mean, it’s just, it’s the most amazing place.

And I said, and the kids said, “Well, what content do we make?” I said, “Hell, I don’t know. You make whatever you want.” Two rules: no shooting violence and no pornography. Not because I’m opposed to those in particular but, you know, that’s been done with VR, right? [laugher] And you’d be amazed how many 19-year old boys are completely out of ideas when you take those off the table. [laugher] Anyway, so I taught the course.

The first assignment, I gave it to them. They came back in two weeks and they just blew me away. I mean, the work was so beyond, literally, my imagination, because I copied the process from Imagineering’s VR lab but I had no idea what they could or couldn’t do with it as undergraduates and how, because their, and their tools were weaker. And they came back in the first assignment and they did something that was so spectacular that I literally didn’t, ten years as a professor and I had no idea what to do next. So I called up my mentor. I called up Andy Van Dam. And I said, “Andy, I just gave a two-week assignment and they came back and did stuff that if I’d given them the whole semester, I’d have given them all A’s. Sensei, what do I do?” [laugher] And Andy thought for a minute and he said, “You go back into class tomorrow and you look them in the eye and you say, guys, that was pretty good but I know you can do better.” [laugher] And that was exactly the right advice because what he said was, “You obviously don’t know where the bar should be and you’re only gonna do them a disservice by putting it anywhere.” And, boy, was that good advice because they just kept going.

And during that semester it became this underground thing. I’d walk into a class with 50, with 50 students in it and there were 95 people in the room because it was the day we were showing work. And people’s roommates and friends and parents … I’ve never had parents come to class before. It was flattering and somewhat scary.

And so, it snowballed and we had this bizarre thing of, well, we’ve gotta share this. If there’s anything I’ve been raised to do, it’s to share. And I said, “We’ve gotta show this at the end of the semester. We’ve gotta have a big show.” And we booked this room, McConomy. I have a lot of good memories in this room. And we booked it, not because we thought we could fill it, but because it had the only A/V setup that would work, because this was a zoo. All right? Computers and everything. And then we filled it. And we more than filled it. We had people standing in the aisle.

I will never forget the dean at the time, Jim Morris, was sitting on the stage right about there. We had to kind of scoot him out of the way. And, the energy in the room was like nothing I had every experienced before. And President Cohen, Jerry Cohen, was there and he sensed the same thing. He later described it as like an Ohio State football pep rally, except for academics. And, and he came over and he asked exactly the right question. He said, “Before you start, he said, I gotta know, where are these people from?” He said, “The audience, what departments are they from?” And we polled them and it was all the departments. And I felt very good because I had just come to campus. He had just come to campus. And my new boss had seen in a very corporal way that this is the university that puts everybody together. And, and that made me feel just tremendous.

So we did this campus-wide exhibition and people performed down here. They’re in costume and we project just like this. And you can see what’s going on. You can see what they’re seeing in the head-mount. There’s a lot of big props. So there’s a guy whitewater rafting. This is Ben and E.T. And, yes, I did tell them if they didn’t do the shot of the kids biking across the moon, I would fail him. That is a true story. And I said, I thought I’d show you just one world. And if we can get the lights down, if that’s at all possible. No. Okay. That means no. All right. All right. We’ll just do our best then.

[Shows “Hello.world” world done in the BVW class]

Animated: Oh, hello there. I’m lonely. Make me a world. Yay. Yay. Yay. Yay. Make me some trees. Yay. Yay. Yay.

Randy: Now, now they’re gonna turn this on it’s head. Watch closely. The world doesn’t want to go on to the next thing in the show. So she’s ready to move on and it’s not.

Animated: What are you doing? You can’t end this now.

On-screen speaker: But there’s so many other worlds that have to go.

Animated: But our world is the best world. Hey, hey, hey. Hey, No! Here I am.

On-screen speaker: We’re gonna shut you down. Control-alt-delete.

Animated: Not control-alt-delete! You left us. You left us. We love you. Goodbye.

[audience applauds at the end]

Randy Pausch: It was an unusual course with some of the most brilliant, creative students from all across the campus. It just was a joy to be involved with. And they took the whole stage performance aspect of this way too seriously. And it became this campus phenomenon every year. People would line up for it. It was very flattering. And, it gave kids a chance, a sense of excitement, of putting on a show for people who were then excited about it. And I think that that’s one of the best things you can give somebody, the chance to show them what it feels like to make other people get excited and happy. I mean, that’s a tremendous gift.

We always tried to involve the audience, whether it was people with glow sticks or batting a beach ball around or driving. This is really cool. This technology actually got used at the Spider-Man 3 premiere in LA, so the audience was controlling something on the screen. So that’s kind of nice.

And, I don’t have a class picture from every year but I dredged all the ones that I do have, and all I can say is that, what a privilege and an honor it was to teach that course for something like ten years. And, all good things come to an end and I stopped teaching that course about a year ago.

People always ask me, “What was my favorite moment?” I don’t know if you can have a favorite moment but, boy, there’s one I’ll never forget. This was a world with, I believe, a roller skating ninja. And one of the rules was that we performed these things live, and they all had to really work, and the moment it stopped working, we went to your backup video tape. And this was very embarrassing. So we had this ninja on stage and he’s doing this roller skating thing and the world, it did not crash gently. And I come out and, I believe it was Steve, wasn’t it? Was it? Where is he? Okay. Where is Steve? Ah. My man. Steve Audio. And talk about quick on your feet. Right? I say, “Steve, I’m sorry but your world has crashed and we’re going to go to videotape.” And he pulls out his ninja sword and says, “I am dishonored. Whaa!” [laughter abd clapping] And just drops. And so I think it’s very telling that my favorite moment in ten years of this high technology course was a brilliant ad lib. And then, when the videotape is done and the lights come up, he’s lying there lifeless and his teammates drag him off. It was really a fantastic moment.

And, the course was all about bonding. People used to say, well, you know, what’s gonna make for a good world? I said, “I can’t tell you beforehand” but right before they present it, I can tell you if the world’s good just by the body language. If they’re standing close to each other, the world is good. All right?

And BVW was a pioneering course. [Randy puts on vest with arrows poking out of the back] And, I won’t bore you with all the details but it wasn’t easy to do, and I was given this when I stepped down from the ETC and I think it’s emblematic. If you’re gonna do anything that’s pioneering, you will get those arrows in the back, and you just have to put up with it. I mean, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but at the end of the day, a whole lot of people had a whole lot of fun.

When you’ve had something for ten years that you hold so precious, it’s the toughest thing in the world to hand it over. And the only advice I can give you is, find somebody better than you to hand it to. And that’s what I did. There was this kid at the VR studio way back when. And you didn’t have to spend very long in Jesse Schell’s orbit to go, “The Force is strong in this one.” And one of my greatest, my two greatest accomplishments, I think, for Carnegie Mellon were that I got Jessica Hodgins and Jesse Schell to come here and join our faculty. And I was thrilled when I could hand this over to Jesse and, to no one’s surprise, he has really taken it up to the next notch and, you know, the course is in more than good hands. It’s in better hands.

But it was just one course. And then we really took it up a notch and we created what I would call The Dream Fulfillment Factory. Don Marinelli and I got together and, with the university’s blessing and encouragement, we made this thing out of whole cloth that was absolutely insane. Should never have been tried. All the sane universities didn’t go near this kind of stuff, creating a tremendous opportunistic void.

So, the Entertainment Technology Center was all about artisan technologists working in small teams to make things. It was a two year professional Masters degree. And, Don and I were two kindred spirits. We’re very different. Anybody who knows us knows that we’re very different people. And we like to do things in a new way. And the truth of the matter is that we were both a little uncomfortable in academia. I used to say that I’m uncomfortable as an academic because I come from a long line of people who actually worked for a living. So… [laughter] I detect nervous laughter. All right. And I want to stress, Carnegie Mellon is the only place in the world that the ETC could have happened. By far. The only place. [Shows slide of Don Marinelli in tye-dyed shirt, shades and an electric guitar, sitting on a desk next to Randy, wearing nerd glasses, button-up shirt, staring at a laptop. Above their heads were the labels “Right brain/Left brain”] [laughter]

So, okay. This picture was Don’s idea, okay? And we like to refer to this picture as Don Marinelli on guitar and Randy Pausch on keyboards. But we really did play up the left brain, right brain and it worked out really well that way. [Shows slide of Don looking intense] [laughter] Don is an intense guy. And Don and I shared an office. And at first it was a small office. We shared an office for six years. All right? Now, those of you who know Don know he’s an intense guy. Right? And, you know, given my current condition, somebody was asking me … This is a terrible joke but I’m gonna use it anyway … because I know Don will forgive me. Somebody said, “Given your current condition, have you thought about whether you’re gonna go to heaven or hell?” And I said, “I don’t know but if I’m going to hell, I’m due six years for time served.” [laughter] I kid.

Sharing an office with Don was really like sharing an office with a tornado. Right? There was just so much energy and you never knew which trailer was next, right? But you knew something exciting was gonna happen. And, and there was so much energy. And I do believe in, in giving credit where credit is due. So, in my typically visual way, right? If Don and I were to split the success for the ETC, he clearly gets the lion’s share of it. He did the lion’s share of the work. Okay? He had the lion’s share of the ideas.

It was a great teamwork. I think it was a great ying and a yang, but it was more like ying and yang. Right? And he deserves that credit and I give it to him because the ETC is a wonderful place and, you know, he’s now running it and he’s taking it global. We’ll talk about that in a second. Describing the ETC is really hard and I finally found a metaphor. Telling people about the ETC is like describing Cirque du Soleil if they’d never seen it. Sooner or later you’re gonna make the mistake, you’re gonna say, “Well, it’s like a circus”. And then you’re dragged into this conversation about, oh, how many tigers? How many lions? Right? How many trapeze acts? And that misses the whole point.

So when we say we’re a Masters degree, we’re really not like any Masters degree you’ve ever seen. Here’s the curriculum … The curriculum ended up looking like this. All I want to do is visually communicate to you that you do five projects in Building Virtual Worlds. Then you do three more. All of your time is spent in small teams making stuff. None of that book learning thing. Don and I have no patience for the book learning thing. It’s a Masters degree. They already spent four years doing book learning, right? By now they should have read all the books. Right?

The keys to the success were that Carnegie Mellon gave us the reigns. Completely gave us the reigns. We had no deans to report to. We reported directly to the provost, which is great because the provost is way too busy to watch you carefully. [laughter] We were given explicit license to break the mold. It was all project-based. It was intense. It was fun. And we took field trips. Every spring semester in January we’d take all 50 students in the first-year class and we’d take them out to shops at Pixar. We’d take them to Pixar, Industrial Light and Magic. And of course when you’ve got guys like Tommy there acting as host, right? It’s pretty easy to get entrée to these places.

So, we did things very, very differently. The kind of projects students would do, we did a lot of what we’d call edutainment. We developed a bunch of things with the Fire Department of New York. A network simulator for training firefighters using “videogame-ish”-type technology to teach people useful things. That’s not bad. Companies did this strange thing. They put in writing, we promise to hire your students. I’ve got the EA and Activision ones here. I think there are now, how many? Five? … So, there are five written agreements. I don’t know of any other school that has this kind of written agreement with any company. And so that’s a real statement. And these are multiple year things. So they’re agreeing to hire people for summer internships that we have not admitted yet. That’s a pretty strong statement about the quality of the program.

And Don, as I said, he’s now, he’s crazy. And I mean that in a wonderful, complimentary way. He’s doing these things where I’m like, “Oh, my God!” He’s not here tonight because he’s in Singapore because there’s gonna be an ETC campus in Singapore. There’s already one in Australia and there’s gonna be one in Korea. So this is becoming a global phenomenon. So, I think this really speaks volumes about all the other universities. It’s really true that Carnegie Mellon is the only university that can do this. We just have to do it all over the world now. Right?

One of the big successes about the ETC is teaching people about … [puts up bar chart where students are (anonymous) listed on a scale labeled “how easy to work with” ] oh, now I hear the nervous laughter from the students. I had forgotten the delayed shock therapy effect of these bar charts. When you’re taking Building Virtual Worlds, every two weeks we get peer feedback. We put that all into a big spreadsheet and at the end of the semester you’ve had three teammates per project, five projects. That’s 15 data points. That’s statistically valid. And you get a bar chart telling you, on a ranking of how easy you are to work with, where you stack up against your peers. Boy, that’s hard feedback to ignore. Some still managed but … But for the most part, people looked at that and went, “Wow, I gotta, I gotta pick it up a notch. I better start thinking about what I’m saying to people in these meetings.” And that is the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self …

… and that is the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self-reflective.

So the ETC was wonderful, but even the ETC and even as Don scales it around the globe, it’s still very labor intensive. It’s not Tommy one at a time, it’s not a research group 10 at a time. It’s 50 or 100 at a time per campus times four campuses. But I wanted something infinitely scalable, scalable to the point where millions or tens of millions of people could chase their dreams with something. You know, I guess that kind of a goal really does make me the Mad Hatter.

Alice is a project that we’ve worked on for a long, long time. It’s a novel way to teach computer programming. Kids make movies and games, the head fake – again, we’re back to the head fakes. The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they’re learning something else. I’ve done it my whole career.

The head fake here is that they’re learning to program, but they just think they’re making movies and video games. This thing has already been downloaded well over a million times. There are eight textbooks that have been written about it. 10% of U.S. colleges are using it now, and it’s not the good stuff yet. The good stuff is coming in the next version.

I, like Moses, get to see the promised land, but I won’t get to set foot in it. That’s okay, because I can see it, and the vision is clear: millions of kids having fun while learning something hard. That’s pretty cool. I can deal with that as a legacy.

The next version’s going to come out in 2008. It’s going to be teaching the Java language if you want them to know they’re learning Java; otherwise, they’ll just think that they’re writing movie scripts. We’re getting the characters from the best-selling PC game in history, The Sims. This is all already working in the lab, so there’s no real technological risk. I don’t have time to thank and mention everybody in the Alice team, but I just want to say that Dennis Cosgrove is going to be building this, has been building this. He is the designer, it’s his baby. For those of you who are wondering, “Well, you know, in some number of months, who should I be emailing about the Alice project,” where’s Wanda Dann? Oh, there you are. Stand up, let them all see you.

Everybody say, “Hi, Wanda.”

Audience: Hi, Wanda.

Randy Pausch: Send her the email. I’ll talk a little bit more about Caitlin Kelleher, but she’s graduated with her Ph.D. and is at Washington University, and she’s going to be taking this up a notch and going to middle schools with it. So grand vision, and to the extent that you can live on in something, I will live on in Alice.

All right, so now the third part of the talk, lessons learned. We’ve talked about my dreams. We’ve talked about helping other people enable their dreams. Somewhere along the way, there’s got to be some aspect of what lets you get to achieve your dreams.

First one is the role of parents, mentors, and students. I was blessed to have been born to two incredible people. This is my mother on her 70th birthday. I am back here. I have just been lapped. This is my dad riding a roller coaster on his 80th birthday, and he points out that, you know, he’s not only brave; he’s talented, because he did win that big bear the same day.

My dad was so full of life. Anything with him was an adventure. I don’t know what’s in that bag, but I know it’s cool. My dad dressed up as Santa Claus, but he also did very, very significant things to help lots of people. This is a dormitory in Thailand that my mom and dad underwrote, and every year, about 30 students get to go to school who wouldn’t have otherwise. This is something my wife and I have also been involved in heavily, and these are the kind of things that I think everybody ought to be doing, helping others.

But the best story I have about my dad is … unfortunately my dad passed away a little over a year ago, and when we were going through his things … he had fought in World War II in the battle of the Bulge … and when we were going through his things, we found out he had been awarded the Bronze Star for valor. My mom didn’t know it. In 50 years of marriage, it had just never come up.

My mom. Mothers are people who love you even when you pull their hair. I have two great mom stories. When I was here studying to get my Ph.D. and I was taking something called the theory qualifier … which I can definitively say is the second worst thing in my life after chemotherapy … and I was complaining to my mother about how hard this test was and how awful it was, and she just leaned over and she patted me on the arm, and she said, “We know how you feel, honey, and remember, when your father was your age, he was fighting the Germans.”

After I got my Ph.D., my mother took great relish in introducing me as, “This is my son. He’s a doctor but not the kind who helps people.”

These slides are a little bit dark, but when I was in high school, I decided to paint my bedroom. I’d always wanted a submarine and an elevator. The great thing about this … what can I say?

The great thing about this is, they let me do it, and they didn’t get upset about it, and it’s still there. If you go to my parents’ house, it’s still there. Anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it, okay? It’ll be okay. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.

Other people who help us besides our parents: our teachers, our mentors, our friends, our colleagues. God, what is there to say about Andy Van Dam? When I was a freshman at Brown, he was on leave, and all I heard about was this Andy Van Dam who was like a mythical creature, like a centaur, but like a really pissed off centaur, and everybody was really sad that he was gone but kind of more relaxed. I found out why, because I started working for Andy. I was a teaching assistant for him as a sophomore, I was quite an arrogant young man, and I came in to some office hours, and of course it was 9:00 at night, and Andy was there at office hours, which is your first clue as to what kind of professor he was.

I come bounding in, and, you know, I’m just, I’m going to save the world. There are all these kids waiting for help, da da, da da, da da, da da. Afterwards, Andy literally dutch-uncled … he’s Dutch, right? He dutch-uncled me, and he put his arm around my shoulders, and we went for a little walk, and he said, “Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant, because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life.”

What a hell of a good way to word “You’re being a jerk.” Right? He doesn’t say, “You’re a jerk.” He says, “People are perceiving you this way,” and he says, “The downside is, it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish.”

When I got to know Andy better, the beatings became more direct. I could tell you Andy stories for a month, but the one I will tell you is that when it came time to start thinking about what to do after graduating from Brown, it had never occurred to me in a million years to go to graduate school, just out of my imagination. It wasn’t the kind of thing people from my family did. We got, say, what do you call them? Jobs.

Andy said, “No, don’t go do that. Go get a Ph.D. Become a professor.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because you’re such a good salesman that any company who gets you is going to use you as a salesman, and you might as well be selling something worthwhile like education.”


Andy was my first boss, so to speak. I was lucky enough to have a lot of bosses. That red circle is way off. Al is over here. I don’t know what the hell happened there. He’s probably watching this on the webcast going, “My god, he’s targeting, and he still can’t aim!”

I don’t want to say much about the great bosses I’ve had except that they were great, and I know a lot of people in the world have had bad bosses, and I haven’t had to endure that experience, and I’m very grateful to all of the people that I ever had to report to. They’ve just been incredible.

But it’s not just our bosses. We learn from our students. I think the best head fake of all time comes from Caitlin Kelleher … excuse me, Dr. Caitlin Kelleher … who just finished up here and is starting at Washington University. She looked at Alice when it was an easier way to learn to program, and she said, “Yeah, but why is that fun?”

I was like, “Well, because I’m a compulsive male. I like to make the little toy soldiers move around by my command, and that’s fun.” She’s like, “Hmm.”

She was the one who said, “No, we’ll just approach it all as a storytelling activity.” She’s done wonderful work showing that, particularly with middle school girls, if you present it as a storytelling activity, they’re perfectly willing to learn how to write computer software. So all-time best head fake award goes to Caitlin Kelleher’s dissertation.

President Cohon, when I told him I was going to do this talk, he said, “Please tell them about having fun, because that’s what I remember you for.”

I said, “I can do that, but it’s kind of like a fish talking about the importance of water.” I mean, I don’t know how to not have fun. All right, I’m dying, and I’m having fun, and I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there’s no other way to play it. Right?

So my next piece of advice is, you just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or you’re an Eeyore. I think I’m clear where I stand on the great Tigger-Eeyore debate.

Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others. Denny Proffitt knows more about helping other people. He’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know. He’s taught me by example how to run a group, how to care about people.

M.K. Haley … I have a theory that people who come from large families are better people, because they’ve just had to learn how to get along. M.K. Haley comes from a family with 20 kids. Yeah, unbelievable. She always says, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

When I first got to Imagineering, she was one of the people who dressed me down, and she said, “I understand you’ve joined the Aladdin project. What can you do?”

I said, “Well, I’m a tenured professor of computer science.”

She said, “Well, that’s very nice professor boy, but that’s not what I asked. I said, ‘What can you do?’“

I mentioned sort of my working class roots. We keep what is valuable to us, what we cherish, and I’ve kept my letterman’s jacket all these years. I used to like wearing it in grad school, and one of my friends, Jessica Hodgins would say, “Why do you wear this letterman’s jacket?”

I looked around at all the non-athletic guys around me who were much smarter than me, and I said, “Because I can.”

She thought that was a real hoot, so one year she made for me this little raggedy randy doll. He’s got a little letterman’s jacket too. That’s my all-time favorite. It’s the perfect gift for the egomaniac in your life.

I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. Loyalty is a two-way street. There was a young man named Dennis Cosgrove at the University of Virginia, and when he was a young man, let’s just say things happened, and I found myself talking to a dean, and the dean … no, not that dean. Anyway, this dean really had it in for Dennis and I could never figure out why, because Dennis was a fine fellow, but for some reason, this dean really had it in for him.

I ended up basically saying, “No, I vouch for Dennis.” The guy says, “You’re not even tenured yet, and you’re telling me you’re going to vouch for this sophomore or junior or whatever?” I think he was a junior at the time. I said, “Yeah, I’m going to vouch for him, because I believe in him.”

The dean said, “And I’m going to remember this when your tenure case comes up.” I said, “Deal.” I went back to talk to Dennis, and I said, “I would really appreciate you … that would be good.” But loyalty is a two-way street. I mean, that was God knows how many years ago, but that’s the same Dennis Cosgrove who’s carrying Alice forward. He’s been with me all these years, and if we only had one person to send in a space probe to meet an alien species, I’m picking Dennis.

You can’t give a talk at Carnegie Mellon without acknowledging one very special person, and that would be Sharon Burks. I joked with her, I said, “Well, look, if you’re retiring, it’s just not worth living anymore.” Sharon is so wonderful, it’s beyond description, and for all of us who have been helped by her, it’s just indescribable.

I love this picture, because it puts her together with Syl, and Syl is great, because Syl gave the best piece of advice pound for pound that I have ever heard, and I think all young ladies should hear this.

Syl said, “It took me a long time, but I’ve finally figured it out. When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do. It’s that simple. It’s that easy.”

I thought back to my bachelor days, and I said, “Damn.”

Never give up. I didn’t get into Brown University. I was on the wait list. I called them up, and they eventually decided that it was getting really annoying to have me call every day, so they let me in.

At Carnegie Mellon, I didn’t get into graduate school. Andy had mentored me. He said, “Go to graduate school. You’re going to Carnegie Mellon. All my good students go to Carnegie Mellon,” and yeah, you know what’s coming.

He said, “You’re going to go to Carnegie Mellon, no problem.” What he had kind of forgotten was that the difficulty of getting into the top Ph.D. program in the country had really gone up, and he also didn’t know I was going to tank my GREs, because he believed in me, which based on my board scores, was a really stupid idea. I didn’t get into Carnegie Mellon. No one knows this till today I’m telling the story. I was declined admission to Carnegie Mellon.

I was a bit of an obnoxious little kid. I went into Andy’s office and I dropped the rejection letter on his desk. I said, “I just want you to know what your letter of recommendation goes for at Carnegie Mellon.” [laughter]

Before the letter had hit his desk, his hand was on the phone, and he said, “I will fix this.” [laughter] I said, “No, no, no, I don’t want to do it that way. That’s not the way I was raised. You know, maybe some other graduate schools will see fit to admit me.” [laughter]

He said, “Look. Carnegie Mellon’s where you’re going to be.” He said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. Go visit the other schools.” Because I did get into all the other schools. He said, “Go visit the other schools, and if you really don’t feel comfortable at any of them, then will you let me call Nico?” Nico being Nico Habermann.

I said, “Okay, deal.” I went to the other schools. Without naming them by name – Berkeley, Cornell – they managed to be so unwelcoming that I found myself saying to Andy, “You know, I’m going to get a job.” And he said, “No, you’re not,” and he picked up the phone, and he talked in Dutch. [laughter] He hung up the phone, and he said, “Nico says if you’re serious, be in his office tomorrow morning at 8:00 A.M.”

For those of you who know Nico, this is really scary. So I’m in Nico Habermann’s office the next morning at 8:00 A.M., and he’s talking with me, and frankly, I don’t think he’s that keen on this meeting. I don’t think he’s that keen at all.

He says, “Randy, why are we here?”

I said, “Because Andy phoned you?” I said, “Well, since you admitted me, I have won a fellowship, the Office of Naval Research, it’s a very prestigious fellowship. I’ve won this fellowship, and that wasn’t in my file when I applied.”

Nico said, “A fellowship, money, we have plenty of money.” That was back then. [laughter] He said, “We have plenty of money. Why do you think having a fellowship makes any difference to us?” And he looked at me.

There are moments that change your life, and 10 years later, if you know in retrospect it was one of those moments, you’re blessed, but to know it at the moment with Nico staring through your soul … and I said, “I didn’t mean to imply anything about the money. It’s just that it was an honor. There were only 15 given nationwide, and I did think it was an honor that would be something that would be meritorious, and I apologize if that was presumptuous.” He smiled, and that was good.

So, how do you get people to help you? You can’t get there alone. People have to help you, and I do believe in karma, I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the truth, being earnest. I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.

Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself. I thought, how do I possibly make a concrete example of that? Do we have a concrete example of focusing on somebody else over there? Could we bring it out?

See, yesterday was my wife’s birthday. If there was ever a time I might be entitled to have the focus on me, it might be the last lecture. But no, I feel very badly that my wife didn’t really get a proper birthday, and I thought it would be very nice if 500 people …[an oversized birthday cake is wheeled onto the stage] [applause]

[singing Happy Birthday; Randy: her name is Jai] [long applause]

[Jai walks on stage, teary-eyed. She walks with Randy to the cake. Randy: You gotta blow it out. The audience goes quiet. Jai blows out the candle on the cake. Randy: All right. Massive applause.]

Now you all have an extra reason to come to the reception.

Remember, brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from the people who don’t really want to achieve their childhood dreams.

Don’t bail. The best of the gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap.

What Steve didn’t tell you was the big sabbatical at EA. I had been there for 48 hours, and they loved the ETC. We were the best. We were the favorites, and then somebody else pulled me aside and said, “Oh, by the way, we’re about to give $8 million to USC to build a program just like yours. We’re hoping you can help them get it off the ground.” [applause]

Then Steve came along and said, “They said what? Oh God.”

To quote a famous man, “I will fix this,” and he did. Steve has been an incredible partner, and we have a great relationship, personal and professional, and he has certainly been point man on getting a gaming asset to help teach millions of kids, and, you know, that’s just incredible. But it certainly would have been reasonable for me to leave 48 hours into that sabbatical, but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, and when you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.

Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did, or it can just be one great man who tells you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it.

Anybody can get chewed out. It’s the rare person who says, “Oh, my God, you’re right,” as opposed to, “No wait, the real reason is …” we’ve all heard that.

When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it.

Show gratitude. When I got tenure, I took all of my research team down to Disney World for a week, and one of the other professors at Virginia said, “How can you do that?” I said, “These people just busted their ass and got me the best job in the world for life. How could I not do that?”

Don’t complain; just work harder. That’s a picture of Jackie Robinson. It was in his contract not to complain, even when the fans spit on him.

Be good at something; it makes you valuable.

Work hard. I got tenure a year early as Steve mentioned. Junior faculty members used to say to me, “Wow, you got tenure early. What’s your secret?”

I said, “It’s pretty simple. Call me any Friday night in my office at 10:00 o’clock and I’ll tell you.”

Find the best in everybody. One of the things that Jon Snoddy, as I said, told me is that you might have to wait a long time, sometimes years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting, no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.

And be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.

So today’s talk was about my childhood dreams, enabling the dreams of others, and some lessons learned. But did you figure out the head fake? It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

Randy Pausch_last lecture B
Randy Pausch in the last lecture. Just a bit more than 10 months later, he died.

Have you figured out the second head fake? The talk’s not for you. It’s for my kids. Thank you all. Good night.

[applause; standing ovation for 90 seconds; Randy brings Jai onto the stage and they take a bow; they sit down in their seats; standing ovation continues for another minute]

Randy Bryant:

Thank you everyone. I’d like to thank all of you for coming. This really means a lot I know to Randy. He had this theory even up to yesterday that there wouldn’t be anyone in the room.

Randy Pausch [from seat]:

After CS50…

Randy Bryant:

I know. I’m the other Randy. That’s been my role here for the past 10 years ever since Randy Pausch came here on the faculty. And what I mean by that is, I introduce myself. I’m Randy Bryant from Computer Science. They go, oh, Randy from CS. You’re the one that does all that cool stuff of building virtual worlds and teaching children how to program. And I go, no, no, sorry. That’s the other Randy. I’m the wrong one. Sorry, I’m just like a dull nerd. [laughter] So, but I’m very pleased today to be able to sort of run a brief series of ways in which we want to recognize Randy for his contributions he’s made to Carnegie Mellon, to computer science and to the world at large. So we have a few – it will be a brief program. We have a few people I’ll be bringing up one after the other. I’m sort of the MC here. So first I’d like to introduce who you’ve already met, Steve Seabolt from Electronic Arts. [applause]

Steve Seabolt:

My family wondered whether or not I would make it through the introduction. [voice starts to crack up] And I did that but I might not do so well now. So bear with me. As Randy mentioned, he and I, Carnegie Mellon and Electronic Arts share a particular passion about nurturing young girls and trying to encourage young girls to stay with math and stay with science. Every geek in the world shouldn’t be a guy. You know, it’s such a twist of fate that there’s so many people that are worried about offshoring, and at the same time companies are forced to off-shore, there are fewer and fewer students entering computer science. And the number of women entering computer science just keeps dropping like a rock. There are way too few Caitlins in this world. And Caitlin, we need so many more of you. And with that in mind, Electronic Arts has endowed a scholarship fund. It’s the Randy Pausch endowed scholarship fund, established in 2007 by EA. In honor of Randy’s leadership and contribution to education, computer science, digital entertainment, and his commitment to women in technology. This scholarship will be awarded annually to a female undergraduate CMU student who demonstrates excellence in computer science and a passion in the pursuit of a career in video games. Randy, we’re so honored to do this in your name. [applause]

Randy Bryant:

Next I’d like to introduce Jim Foley. He’s on the faculty at Georgia Tech and he’s here representing the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction. Jim. [applause]

Jim Foley:

[motions to Randy Pausch to come on stage; gives him a hug] That was for Jim. [applause] ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery is a group of about 100,000 computing professionals. One of their special areas of interest is computer human interaction. A few weeks ago, someone who’s a very good friend of Randy’s wrote a citation which was endorsed by a number of people and went to the executive committee of SIGCHI, which on behalf of the SIGCHI membership, has authorized this special presentation. The citation was written by Ben Schneiderman and worked on then by Jenny Preese and Ben Peterson, and endorsed by a whole bunch of your friends and now from the executive committee. So let me read to you the citation.

Special award for professional contributions. Randy Pausch’s innovative work has spanned several disciplines and has inspired both mature researchers and a generation of students. His deep technical competence, choice of imaginative projects and visionary thinking are always combined with energy and passion. We’ve seen that. From his early work on the simple user interface toolkit to his current work on 3D Alice programming language, he has shown that innovative tool design enables broad participation in programming, especially by women and minorities. Randy Pausch has vigorous commitment to engaging students at every level by compelling and intellectually rigorous projects, and his appealing lecture style for a role-model for every teacher and lecture. Yes, yes yes. [voice starts to crack up] His work has helped make team project experiences and educational computing research more common and respected. As a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator, a Lilly Teaching Foundation Teaching Fellow, co-founder of the CMU ET Center and consultant for Disney Imagineering and EA, Randy’s done pioneering work in combining computing interface design and emotionally rich experiences. For these and many other contributions, the ACM SIGCHI executive council is proud to present to Randy Pausch a special award for professional contributions.

[applause] [Randy comes back on stage to receive award]

Randy Bryant:

Thank you, Jim. Next I’d like to introduce Jerry Cohen, the President of Carnegie Mellon University.


Jerry Cohen:

Thank you other Randy. [Tries to move Randy Pausch’s bag of props to the side of the podium] You know you’re traveling heavy, buddy. Many of us have been thinking about and talking about how we can recognize you on this campus in a way that is lasting and fitting in terms of what you meant to this university.

A lot of people are involved in this. You thought the provost wasn’t paying attention all those years. [laughter] Actually, one of the ways we’re going to remember you is this $50,000 bill for stuffed animals. $47,862.32 for pizza. You’ve made great contributions, Randy, we really appreciate it. [laughter]

One thing we could not do, regrettably, is figure out a way to capture the kind of person that you are. You’re humanity, what you’ve meant to us as a colleague, as a teacher. As a student. And as a friend. There’s just no way to capture that. There is our memories, however. And there is a way to remember you every day, as people walk this campus. So we’ve come up with an idea. You’ve done great things for this campus and for computer science and for the world. Surely Alice will live on. But the one we’re going to focus on right now is what you’ve done to connect computer science with the arts. It was remarkable, it was stunning. It’s had enormous impact, and it will last, I daresay forever.

So to recognize that, we are going to do the following. Good job, other Randy. [laughter, as Randy Bryant gets the projector to show the next slide] In order to effect this, we had to build a building. [Shows slide of mockup of Gates building] A hundred million dollar building which will allow us to do the following. You’ll note, by the way, to orient people. So the Purnell Center for the Arts is the home of the School of Drama. That modern looking new thing, half of which has a green roof, is the new Gates Center for Computer Science. And we had long planned to connect these two physically, both to allow people to get down from the cut to lower campus, and you have to admit it carries tremendous symbolic importance.

Well on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon and on behalf of the entire university, I’m pleased to announce today that the bridge connecting these two will be known as the Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge. [shows slide of mockup of bridge] [applause] Now actually based on your talk today we’re thinking now about putting up a brick wall up at either end, and let students see what they can do with it. [laughter] Randy, there’ll be a generation of students and faculty to come here who will not know you, but they will cross that bridge, they will see your name, and they’ll ask those of us who did know you. And we will tell them that unfortunately they were not able to experience the man, but they are surely experiencing the impact of the man. Randy, thank you for all that you’ve done for Carnegie Mellon. We’re going to miss you. [applause] [Randy walks on stage and gives Jerry a hug]

Randy Bryant:

So every good show needs a closing act, and so to do that I’ll invite Andy Van Dam. [applause]

Andy Van Dam:

Oh how I love having the last word. [applause] But to have to go on after that fabulous show, I don’t know whether that was good planning. Well I started in Brown in 1965 and it has been my pleasure and great joy not just to teach thousands of undergraduates and some graduates, but also to work one-on-one with a couple hundred of them. And over 35 have followed me into teaching I’m proud to say. Out of those best and brightest it was very clear that Randy would stand out. He showed great promise early on and a passion about our field and about helping others that you’ve seen amply demonstrated today. It was matched by fierce determination and by persistence in the face of all brick wall odds. And you’ve heard a lot about that and seen that demonstrated as he fights this terrible disease. Like the elephant’s child, however, he was filled with satiable curiosity, you remember that. And what happened to the elephant’s child, he got spanked by all of his relations, and you’ve heard some of that. He was brash, he had an irrepressible, raucous sense of humor, which led to the fantastic showmanship that you saw today. He was self-assured, occasionally to the point of outright cockiness. And stubborn as a mule. And I’m a Dutchman and I know from stubbornness. The kind way to say it is he had an exceedingly strong inner compass, and you’ve seen that demonstrated over and over again.

Now, having been accused of many such traits myself, I rather thought of them as features, not bugs. [laughter] Having had to learn English the hard way, I was a fanatic about getting students to speak and write correct English from the get-go. And Randy the mouth had no problem with that. But he did have one problem. And I’m having a problem with my machine here, here we go. [gets slide to project on screen]. And that was another part of my fanaticism which dealt with having American students learn about foreign cultures. And specifically about food cultures, and more specifically yet, about Chinese food culture. So I would take my students to this wonderful Chinese restaurant where they cooked off the menu using a Chinese menu. And I tried to get Randy to sample this. But would Mr. White Bread touch that stuff? [laughter] Absolutely not. And worse, he refused to learn to eat with chopsticks. I was chairman at the time and I said, Randy, you know, I’m not going to let you graduate if you don’t learn to eat with chopsticks! [laughter] It’s a requirement, didn’t you see that? He of course didn’t believe that. And so it came time for graduation and I handed him his diploma. And this was the picture one of my friends took. [Shows slide of Brown University commencement, 1982, Randy dressed in his cap and gown, opening his diploma, his mouth wide open in surprise] And what you see is Randy opening his diploma to show it to his parents, and there was an autographed copy of the menu in Chinese and no diploma. [laughter, applause] It was one of the few times I got the better of him, I have to confess.

Well here we are today, all of us, and hundreds and hundreds of people all over the country, I dare say all over the world, participating in this great event to celebrate you and your life. Randy is the person, the Mensch, as we say in Yiddish. Your manifold accomplishments as a model academic, especially as a mentor to your students. Your Disneyland expeditions not only were unique but they are legendary. You have more than fulfilled the terms of Brown University Charter, which are: to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation. Your utter devotion to your family and your career are exemplary, and continue unabated as you cope with the immensity of your situation. You exemplify undaunted courage and grace under pressure. The most terrible pressure one can imagine. Randy, you have been and you will continue to be a role model for us. [Voice starts cracking up] Thank you so much for all you have done for us. And to allow us to tell you privately and in such a public way how much we admire, honor, and indeed love you. [applause] [standing ovation]

“Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” by Randy Pauschhttps://jamesclear.com/great-speeches/achieving-your-childhood-dreams-by-randy-pausch

The “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch (full-length video, with accompanying slides) –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zzQpvoYcQ


(1) World Book Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia published in the United States. According to the company, its mission is to “enhance learning and reading for children around the world by developing trustworthy, engaging content to create products that will engage children of all ages at home, on the go, in the classroom or in libraries worldwide.” The encyclopedia was designed to cover major areas of knowledge uniformly, but it shows particular strength in scientific, technical, and medical subjects. Today, the company claims that World Book is the most up-to-date commercial encyclopedia, According to the company, the latest edition, World Book Encyclopedia 2019, contains 14,000 pages distributed along 22 volumes and more than 17,000 articles in total which represents an increase of 7.05% from the last edition (1,200 articles more).

(2) William Shatner (1931– ) is a Canadian actor, author, producer, director, and singer. In his seven decades of television, Shatner became a cultural icon for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise. He has written a series of books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk and being a part of Star Trek, and has co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe. He has also written a series of science fiction novels called TekWar that were adapted for television.

* * *

After Pausch finished his lecture, Steve Seabolt, on behalf of Electronic Arts, which is collaborating with CMU in the development of Alice 3.0, pledged to honor Pausch by creating a memorial scholarship for women in computer science, in recognition of Pausch’s support and mentoring of women in CS and engineering.

The video of the lecture became an Internet sensation, being viewed over a million times in the first month after its delivery on social networking sites such as YouTube, Google video, MySpace, and Facebook. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” became an inspiration for people around the world who felt moved by the professor’s battle with cancer and his insistence on the power and significance of achieving your childhood dreams.

During the remaining few months when Randy Pausch was still healthy, he read for his friend to write a book entitled The Last Lecture based on his lecture.

Commencement Address at Carnegie Mellon (2008)

On 19 May 2008 Randy Pausch gave the charge to the graduates at Carnegie Mellon. In six outstanding minutes he shares meaningful advice with the graduates. He says that we do not beat the Grim Reaper by living longer, we beat it by living well and fully. The Reaper will come for all of us. When he shows up it is too late to do all the things we would like to do. His two main pieces of advice are as follows:

1/ It is not the things that we do in life that we regret on our dead bed, it is the things we do not do. “I assure you I’ve done a lot of stupid things and none of them bother me. All the mistakes and doupie things, and times I was embarrassed they don’t matter to me. What’s important is when I got the chance to do something cool, I tried to grab for it.”

2/ Follow your passion and your heart. You will need to find your passion. If you did not find it, you will find it later, in your 30s or 40s but do not give up on finding it and follow it. You will not find it in things or money because the more you have the more you will use that as a metric and would like to get more. The important things are those that fill you from inside. It will be grounded in people, in your relationship with people.


Here, a visibly ill Pausch, delivers the commencement address at Carnegie Mellon. It is short, but highly inspirational.

Randy Pausch Inspires Graduates (full video)– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcYv5x6gZTA

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As he exited the podium, Pausch kissed his wife and carried her offstage to the sounds of a cheering crowd.

Just two months after delivering this speech to graduates of Carnegie Mellon, Randy Pausch died on 25 July 2008.

Al Gore

Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr. (1948– ) served as the 45th Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

Gore is also an author and environmental activist. He has founded a number of non-profit organizations, including the Alliance for Climate Protection, and has received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in climate change activism.

Al Gore was previously an elected official for 24 years, representing Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives (1977–85), and later in the U.S. Senate (1985–93), and finally becoming Vice President in 1993. In the 2000 presidential election, Gore won the popular vote by a margin of more than 500,000 votes. However, he ultimately lost the Electoral College to Republican George W. Bush when the U.S. Supreme Court settled the legal controversy over the Florida vote recount by ruling 5-4 in favor of Bush. It was the only time in history that the Supreme Court has determined the outcome of a presidential election.

Al Gore is the founder and chair of the Alliance for Climate Protection, the co-founder and chair of Generation Investment Management, the co-founder and chair of Current TV, a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Inc., and a senior adviser to Google. Gore is also a partner in the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, heading its climate change solutions group. He has served as a visiting professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Fisk University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Gore has received a number of awards including the Nobel Peace Prize (joint award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2007), a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album (2009) for his book An Inconvenient Truth, a Primetime Emmy Award for Current TV (2007), and a Webby Award (2005). Gore was also the subject of the Academy Award-winning (2007) documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. In 2007 he was named a runner-up for Time’s 2007 Person of the Year.

“We are confronting a planetary emergency” (2007)

He has said it again and again, with increasing urgency, to anyone who will listen. And on Monday, former Vice President Al Gore used the occasion of his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize lecture here to tell the world in powerful, stark language: Climate change is a “real, rising, imminent and universal” threat to the future of the Earth…

The ceremony marking the 2007 prize, given to Mr. Gore and to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comes as representatives of the world’s governments are meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali to negotiate a new international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The new treaty would replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the ceremony in the city hall in Oslo, Mr. Gore called on the negotiators to establish a universal global cap on emissions and to ratify and enact a new treaty by the beginning of 2010, two years early. And he singled out the United States and China — the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide — for failing to meet their obligations in mitigating emissions. They should “stop using each other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate,” he said.

In an interview before his speech, Mr. Gore said that the Bush administration was “the principal stumbling block to progress in Bali right now” but that he foresaw a change in American policy, regardless of which party won the 2008 election….

In Nobel Lecture in Oslo on 10 December 2007, Mr. Gore invoked Churchill, Robert Frost, Gandhi, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado and the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, among others, to underline the urgency of his message. He wrote the speech himself, he said in the interview, “with the help of Mr. Google.”


Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

Al Gore
“I have a purpose here today”

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.


Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.

In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.

We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and natural gas.

Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.

But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless – which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.

We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: “Mutually assured destruction.”

More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a “nuclear winter.” Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.

Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?

Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” – or “truth force.”

In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.

Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. I n that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger, “ the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon – with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters – most of all, my own country – that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act? “

Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

Al Gore – Nobel Lecturehttp://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2007/gore-lecture_en.html

Nobel Lecture by Al Gore (with full video) – http://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=796

Kevin Rudd

Kevin Michael Rudd (1957– ) is an Australian former politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, serving from December 2007 to June 2010 and again from June to September 2013. He held office as the leader of the Australian Labor Party.

Rudd has a degree in Chinese studies from the Australian National University, and is fluent in Mandarin. Before entering politics, he worked as a diplomat, political staffer, and public servant. Rudd was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1998 election, running in the Division of Griffith. He was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet in 2001 as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In December 2006, he successfully challenged Kim Beazley to become the Leader of the Labor Party (and thus Leader of the Opposition). Under Rudd, Labor overtook the incumbent Coalition government led by John Howard in the polls, making a number of policy announcements in education, health, industrial relations, and climate change.

Labor won the 2007 election by a landslide. The Rudd Government’s first acts included signing the Kyoto Protocol and delivering an apology to Indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generations. Its signature policies included the National Broadband Network, the Digital Education Revolution, and Building the Education Revolution. It also largely dismantled WorkChoices (the previous government’s industrial relations legislation), withdrew Australia’s remaining Iraq War combat personnel, and organised the Australia 2020 Summit. The government provided economic stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis, and Australia was one of the few developed countries to avoid the late-2000s recession.

Sorry Speech (2008)

After the 2007 federal election, the newly installed Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on 11 December 2007 that the government would make an apology to Indigenous Australians, the wording of which would be decided in consultation with Aboriginal leaders.

On 13 February 2008, the Parliament of Australia issued a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for forced removals of Australian indigenous children (often referred to as the Stolen Generations) from their families by Australian federal and state government agencies. The apology was delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

I move:

That today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

There comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future.

Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time.

That is why the parliament is today here assembled: to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nations soul and, in a true spirit of reconciliation, to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia.

Last year I made a commitment to the Australian people that if we formed the next government of the Commonwealth we would in parliament say sorry to the stolen generations.

Today I honour that commitment.

I said we would do so early in the life of the new parliament.

Again, today I honour that commitment by doing so at the commencement of this the 42nd parliament of the Commonwealth.

Because the time has come, well and truly come, for all peoples of our great country, for all citizens of our great commonwealth, for all Australians – those who are indigenous and those who are not – to come together to reconcile and together build a new future for our nation.

Some have asked, Why apologise?

Let me begin to answer by telling the parliament just a little of one person’s story – an elegant, eloquent and wonderful woman in her 80s, full of life, full of funny stories, despite what has happened in her life’s journey, a woman who has travelled a long way to be with us today, a member of the stolen generation who shared some of her story with me when I called around to see her just a few days ago.

Nanna Nungala Fejo, as she prefers to be called, was born in the late 1920s. She remembers her earliest childhood days living with her family and her community in a bush camp just outside Tennant Creek.

She remembers the love and the warmth and the kinship of those days long ago, including traditional dancing around the camp fire at night.

She loved the dancing. She remembers once getting into strife when, as a four-year-old girl, she insisted on dancing with the male tribal elders rather than just sitting and watching the men, as the girls were supposed to do.

But then, sometime around 1932, when she was about four, she remembers the coming of the welfare men. Her family had feared that day and had dug holes in the creek bank where the children could run and hide.

What they had not expected was that the white welfare men did not come alone. They brought a truck, two white men and an Aboriginal stockman on horseback cracking his stockwhip.

The kids were found; they ran for their mothers, screaming, but they could not get away. They were herded and piled onto the back of the truck. Tears flowing, her mum tried clinging to the sides of the truck as her children were taken away to the Bungalow in Alice, all in the name of protection.

A few years later, government policy changed. Now the children would be handed over to the missions to be cared for by the churches. But which church would care for them?

The kids were simply told to line up in three lines. Nanna Fejo and her sister stood in the middle line, her older brother and cousin on her left. Those on the left were told that they had become Catholics, those in the middle Methodists and those on the right Church of England.

That is how the complex questions of post-reformation theology were resolved in the Australian outback in the 1930s. It was as crude as that.

She and her sister were sent to a Methodist mission on Goulburn Island and then Croker Island. Her Catholic brother was sent to work at a cattle station and her cousin to a Catholic mission.

Nanna Fejo’s family had been broken up for a second time. She stayed at the mission until after the war, when she was allowed to leave for a prearranged job as a domestic in Darwin. She was 16. Nanna Fejo never saw her mum again.

After she left the mission, her brother let her know that her mum had died years before, a broken woman fretting for the children that had literally been ripped away from her.

I asked Nanna Fejo what she would have me say today about her story. She thought for a few moments then said that what I should say today was that all mothers are important. And she added: Families – keeping them together is very important. It’s a good thing that you are surrounded by love and that love is passed down the generations. That’s what gives you happiness.

As I left, later on, Nanna Fejo took one of my staff aside, wanting to make sure that I was not too hard on the Aboriginal stockman who had hunted those kids down all those years ago.

The stockman had found her again decades later, this time himself to say, Sorry. And remarkably, extraordinarily, she had forgiven him.

Nanna Fejo’s is just one story.

There are thousands, tens of thousands of them: stories of forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their mums and dads over the better part of a century. Some of these stories are graphically told in Bringing them home, the report commissioned in 1995 by Prime Minister Keating and received in 1997 by Prime Minister Howard.

There is something terribly primal about these firsthand accounts. The pain is searing; it screams from the pages. The hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental humanity.

These stories cry out to be heard; they cry out for an apology.

Instead, from the nation’s parliament there has been a stony, stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade; a view that somehow we, the parliament, should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong; a view that, instead, we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side, to leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors, as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.

But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities. They are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments. But, as of today, the time for denial, the time for delay, has at last come to an end.

The nation is demanding of its political leadership to take us forward. Decency, human decency, universal human decency, demands that the nation now step forward to right an historical wrong. That is what we are doing in this place today.

But should there still be doubts as to why we must now act, let the parliament reflect for a moment on the following facts: that, between 1910 and 1970, between 10 and 30 per cent of indigenous children were forcibly taken from their mothers and fathers; that, as a result, up to 50,000 children were forcibly taken from their families; that this was the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state as reflected in the explicit powers given to them under statute; that this policy was taken to such extremes by some in administrative authority that the forced extractions of children of so-called mixed lineage were seen as part of a broader policy of dealing with the problem of the Aboriginal population.

One of the most notorious examples of this approach was from the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, who stated:

“Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes” – to quote the protector – “will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.”

The Western Australian Protector of Natives expressed not dissimilar views, expounding them at length in Canberra in 1937 at the first national conference on indigenous affairs that brought together the Commonwealth and state protectors of natives.

These are uncomfortable things to be brought out into the light. They are not pleasant. They are profoundly disturbing.

But we must acknowledge these facts if we are to deal once and for all with the argument that the policy of generic forced separation was somehow well motivated, justified by its historical context and, as a result, unworthy of any apology today.

Then we come to the argument of intergenerational responsibility, also used by some to argue against giving an apology today.

But let us remember the fact that the forced removal of Aboriginal children was happening as late as the early 1970s.

The 1970s is not exactly a point in remote antiquity. There are still serving members of this parliament who were first elected to this place in the early 1970s.

It is well within the adult memory span of many of us.

The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.

There is a further reason for an apology as well: it is that reconciliation is in fact an expression of a core value of our nation – and that value is a fair go for all.

There is a deep and abiding belief in the Australian community that, for the stolen generations, there was no fair go at all.

There is a pretty basic Aussie belief that says that it is time to put right this most outrageous of wrongs.

It is for these reasons, quite apart from concerns of fundamental human decency, that the governments and parliaments of this nation must make this apology – because, put simply, the laws that our parliaments enacted made the stolen generations possible.

We, the parliaments of the nation, are ultimately responsible, not those who gave effect to our laws. And the problem lay with the laws themselves.

As has been said of settler societies elsewhere, we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors; therefore we must also be the bearer of their burdens as well.

Therefore, for our nation, the course of action is clear: that is, to deal now with what has become one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s history.

In doing so, we are doing more than contending with the facts, the evidence and the often rancorous public debate.

In doing so, we are also wrestling with our own soul.

This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth – facing it, dealing with it, moving on from it.

Until we fully confront that truth, there will always be a shadow hanging over us and our future as a fully united and fully reconciled people.

It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.

To the stolen generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.

On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry.

Kevin Rudd

I offer you this apology without qualification.

We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted.

We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied.

We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments.

In making this apology, I would also like to speak personally to the members of the stolen generations and their families: to those here today, so many of you; to those listening across the nation – from Yuendumu, in the central west of the Northern Territory, to Yabara, in North Queensland, and to Pitjantjatjara in South Australia.

I know that, in offering this apology on behalf of the government and the parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally.

Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that.

Words alone are not that powerful; grief is a very personal thing.

I ask those non-indigenous Australians listening today who may not fully understand why what we are doing is so important to imagine for a moment that this had happened to you.

I say to honourable members here present: imagine if this had happened to us. Imagine the crippling effect. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive.

My proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia.

And it is to such a new beginning that I believe the nation is now calling us.

Australians are a passionate lot. We are also a very practical lot.

For us, symbolism is important but, unless the great symbolism of reconciliation is accompanied by an even greater substance, it is little more than a clanging gong.

It is not sentiment that makes history; it is our actions that make history.

Today’s apology, however inadequate, is aimed at righting past wrongs.

It is also aimed at building a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians – a bridge based on a real respect rather than a thinly veiled contempt.

Our challenge for the future is to cross that bridge and, in so doing, to embrace a new partnership between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians – to embrace, as part of that partnership, expanded Link-up and other critical services to help the stolen generations to trace their families if at all possible and to provide dignity to their lives.

But the core of this partnership for the future is to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities.

This new partnership on closing the gap will set concrete targets for the future: within a decade to halve the widening gap in literacy, numeracy and employment outcomes and opportunities for indigenous Australians, within a decade to halve the appalling gap in infant mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous children and, within a generation, to close the equally appalling 17-year life gap between indigenous and non-indigenous in overall life expectancy.

The truth is: a business as usual approach towards indigenous Australians is not working.

Most old approaches are not working.

We need a new beginning, a new beginning which contains real measures of policy success or policy failure; a new beginning, a new partnership, on closing the gap with sufficient flexibility not to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach for each of the hundreds of remote and regional indigenous communities across the country but instead allowing flexible, tailored, local approaches to achieve commonly-agreed national objectives that lie at the core of our proposed new partnership; a new beginning that draws intelligently on the experiences of new policy settings across the nation.

However, unless we as a parliament set a destination for the nation, we have no clear point to guide our policy, our programs or our purpose; we have no centralised organising principle.

Let us resolve today to begin with the little children, a fitting place to start on this day of apology for the stolen generations.

Let us resolve over the next five years to have every indigenous four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal community enrolled in and attending a proper early childhood education centre or opportunity and engaged in proper preliteracy and prenumeracy programs.

Let us resolve to build new educational opportunities for these little ones, year by year, step by step, following the completion of their crucial preschool year.

Let us resolve to use this systematic approach to build future educational opportunities for indigenous children to provide proper primary and preventive health care for the same children, to begin the task of rolling back the obscenity that we find today in infant mortality rates in remote indigenous communities up to four times higher than in other communities.

None of this will be easy. Most of it will be hard, very hard. But none of it is impossible, and all of it is achievable with clear goals, clear thinking, and by placing an absolute premium on respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility as the guiding principles of this new partnership on closing the gap.

The mood of the nation is for reconciliation now, between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The mood of the nation on Indigenous policy and politics is now very simple.

The nation is calling on us, the politicians, to move beyond our infantile bickering, our point-scoring and our mindlessly partisan politics and to elevate this one core area of national responsibility to a rare position beyond the partisan divide.

Surely this is the unfulfilled spirit of the 1967 referendum. Surely, at least from this day forward, we should give it a go.

Let me take this one step further and take what some may see as a piece of political posturing and make a practical proposal to the opposition on this day, the first full sitting day of the new parliament.

I said before the election that the nation needed a kind of war cabinet on parts of Indigenous policy, because the challenges are too great and the consequences are too great to allow it all to become a political football, as it has been so often in the past.

I therefore propose a joint policy commission, to be led by the Leader of the Opposition and me, with a mandate to develop and implement, to begin with, an effective housing strategy for remote communities over the next five years.

It will be consistent with the government’s policy framework, a new partnership for closing the gap. If this commission operates well, I then propose that it work on the further task of constitutional recognition of the first Australians, consistent with the longstanding platform commitments of my party and the pre-election position of the opposition.

This would probably be desirable in any event because, unless such a proposition were absolutely bipartisan, it would fail at a referendum. As I have said before, the time has come for new approaches to enduring problems.

Working constructively together on such defined projects would, I believe, meet with the support of the nation. It is time for fresh ideas to fashion the nation’s future.

Mr Speaker, today the parliament has come together to right a great wrong. We have come together to deal with the past so that we might fully embrace the future. We have had sufficient audacity of faith to advance a pathway to that future, with arms extended rather than with fists still clenched.

So let us seize the day. Let it not become a moment of mere sentimental reflection.

Let us take it with both hands and allow this day, this day of national reconciliation, to become one of those rare moments in which we might just be able to transform the way in which the nation thinks about itself, whereby the injustice administered to the stolen generations in the name of these, our parliaments, causes all of us to reappraise, at the deepest level of our beliefs, the real possibility of reconciliation writ large: reconciliation across all indigenous Australia; reconciliation across the entire history of the often bloody encounter between those who emerged from the Dreamtime a thousand generations ago and those who, like me, came across the seas only yesterday; reconciliation which opens up whole new possibilities for the future.

It is for the nation to bring the first two centuries of our settled history to a close, as we begin a new chapter. We embrace with pride, admiration and awe these great and ancient cultures we are truly blessed to have among us cultures that provide a unique, uninterrupted human thread linking our Australian continent to the most ancient prehistory of our planet.

Growing from this new respect, we see our indigenous brothers and sisters with fresh eyes, with new eyes, and we have our minds wide open as to how we might tackle, together, the great practical challenges that Indigenous Australia faces in the future.

Let us turn this page together: indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, government and opposition, Commonwealth and state, and write this new chapter in our nation’s story together.

First Australians, First Fleeters, and those who first took the oath of allegiance just a few weeks ago. Let’s grasp this opportunity to craft a new future for this great land: Australia. I commend the motion to the House.

Kevin Rudd’s sorry speechhttps://www.smh.com.au/national/kevin-rudds-sorry-speech-20080214-gds0xh.html

J.K. Rowling

Joanne Rowling (1965 – ), better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has won multiple awards and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history. The books are the basis of a popular film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films. She also writes crime fiction under the name Robert Galbraith.

Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. There were six sequels, of which the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007. Since then, Rowling has written five books for adult readers: The Casual Vacancy (2012) and – under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith – the crime fiction Cormoran Strike series.

Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life in which she progressed from living on benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author. She lost her billionaire status after giving away much of her earnings to charity.

Time named her a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans. In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors. She has supported multiple charities, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, as well as launching her own charity, Lumos.


“The fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination” (2008)

In 2012, J.K. Rowling, the notoriously private author of the Harry Potter series, dropped off the Forbes billionaires list as a result of her generous charitable donations. Her June 2008 Harvard University commencement address gives a glimpse into the mind of this celebrated philanthropist and creator. With self-deprecating wit, Rowling shares wisdom gleaned from her personal and professional life and credits her success to a blend of failure and imagination. getAbstract believes Rowling’s eloquent, sincere speech will inspire anyone who has led an overly sheltered life to take action to improve the world.


J.K. Rowling delivers her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Text as delivered follows.

JK Rowling_Harvard 2008
J.K. Rowling at Hardvard, 2008

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.


The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and convince myself that I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step to self improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These may seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. I know that the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil, now.

So they hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to speak against their governments. Visitors to our offices included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had left behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

I wish you all very good lives.

Thank-you very much.

Text of J.K. Rowling’s speechhttps://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/06/text-of-j-k-rowling-speech/

Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UibfDUPJAEU

Michelle Obama

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, née Robinson (1964 – ) is an American lawyer, university administrator and writer, who was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Michelle is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In her early legal career, she worked at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met Barack Obama. She subsequently worked in non-profits and as the associate dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago and the vice president for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

As first lady, Obama served as a role model for women, and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon.

Commencement Speech at University of California at Merced (2009)

Making her debut as a commencement speaker before a crowd of 12,000, First Lady Michelle Obama praised graduates at the University of California, Merced, the state’s smallest, youngest public university.

She urged the 493 members of the school’s first full graduating class to give back to their communities.

The young school had worked hard to court Obama as a speaker, writing letters to her office, friends and family, and even starting a “Dear Michelle” Facebook campaign that sent 900 Valentine’s Day cards to her.

This speech is evaluated as one in 40 Best Commencement Speeches by the website Essence.

Michelle Obama_Merced
Michelle Obama at Merced

Thank you. Thank you so much, Class of 2009. [applause] All I can say is wow, and good afternoon, everyone. I am so proud of these graduates. We have to just give them one big round of applause before I start. This is just an amazing day. [applause] I want to thank Dick for that lovely introduction. He makes for a good companion when you have to go to an inauguration. [laughter] So I’m glad he could be here with me today. I appreciate all that he has done to make this day so very special.

I want to acknowledge a few other people before I begin: Congressman Jerry McNerney, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, Attorney General Jerry Brown, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. I want to thank you all for your leadership and for being an example of what a life in public service can mean to us all.

And of course I have to thank Chancellor Kang for this incredible welcome, and as well as President Yudof and Provost Keith Alley for all that they’ve done to help make this event just such a wonderful day for us all.

And to the graduates and their families and the entire community of Merced, I am so pleased, so thrilled, so honored to be here with all of you today. [applause]

Now, I know we’ve got a lot of national press out there, and a few people may be wondering why did I choose the University of California-Merced to deliver my first commencement speech as First Lady. [applause] Well, let me tell you something, the answer is simple: You inspired me, you touched me. [applause] You know, there are few things that are more rewarding than to watch young people recognize that they have the power to make their dreams come true. And you did just that. Your perseverance and creativity were on full display in your efforts to bring me here to Merced for this wonderful occasion. [applause]

So let me tell you what you did. If you don’t know, parents, because some of you were involved, my office received thousands of letters and, of course, Valentines cards from students; each and every one of them so filled with hope and enthusiasm. It moved not just me but my entire staff. They came up to me and said, “Michelle, you have to do this.” [laughter] “You have to go here!” [applause]

They were all terrific. Like the one from Christopher Casuga that read, “Dear Mrs. Obama — Please come to UC Merced’s Commencement. We could really use the publicity.” [laughter] That really touched me.

Or then there was one from Jim Greenwood who wrote not on his behalf but on behalf of his wife and the mother of his two children, who is graduating with us today. [applause]

And then there was the one from Andrea Mercado. I think this was one of my favorites. Andrea said that the role of First Lady is — and I quote — “the balance between politics and sanity.” [laughter] Thank you, Andrea, for that vote of confidence. [laughter]

I received letters from everyone connected to this university — not just students, but they came from parents, and grandparents, and cousins, and aunts, and uncles, and neighbors, and friends, all of them telling me about how hard you all have worked and how important this day is for you and for the entire Merced community.

And then there’s that beautiful video, the “We Believe” video. Well, let me tell you, it worked, because I’m here! [applause]

And I want to thank in particular Sam Fong and Yaasha Sabba and all of the students who launched the “Dear Michelle” campaign. [applause] I am honored by your efforts and happy to be with you to celebrate this important milestone.

But I understand that this type of community-based letter writing campaign isn’t unique to me. This community, this Merced community, employed the same strategy to help get the University of California to build the new campus here in Merced. [applause] Every school kid in the entire county, I understand, sent a postcard to the UC Board of Regents in order to convince them to select Merced, and I just love the fact that some of the graduates sitting this audience today participating were involved in that campaign, as well, and then they used the same strategy to get me here. That is amazing. And what it demonstrates is the power of many voices coming together to make something wonderful happen. And I’m telling you, next year’s graduation speaker better watch out, because Merced students know how to get what they want. (Laughter and applause.)

This type of activism and optimism speaks volumes about the students here, the faculty, the staff, but also about the character and history of Merced — a town built by laborers and immigrants from all over the world: early settlers who came here as pioneers and trailblazers in the late 1800s as part of the Gold Rush and built the churches and businesses and schools that exist; African Americans who escaped slavery and the racism of the South to work on the railways as truck drivers up and down Route 99; Mexican Americans who traveled north to find work on the farms and have since become the backbone of our agricultural industry — (applause); Asian Americans who arrived in San Francisco and have slowly branched out to become a part of the community in the San Joaquin Valley. [applause]

Merced’s make-up may have changed over the years, but its values and character have not — long, hot days filled with hard work by generations of men and women of all races who wanted an opportunity to build a better life for their children and their grandchildren; hardworking folks who believed that access to a good education would be their building blocks to a brighter future.

You know, I grew up in one of those communities with similar values. Like Merced, the South Side of Chicago is a community where people struggled financially, but worked hard, looked out for each other and rallied around their children. My father was a blue-collar worker, as you all know. My mother stayed at home to raise me and my brother. We were the first to graduate from college in our immediate family. [applause]

I know that many of you out here are also the first in your families to achieve that distinction, as well. [applause] And as you know, being the first is often a big responsibility, particularly in a community that, like many others around our country at the moment, is struggling to cope with record high unemployment and foreclosure rates; a community where families are a single paycheck or an emergency room visit away from homelessness.

And with jobs scarce, many of you may be considering leaving town with your diploma in hand. And it wouldn’t be unreasonable. For those of you who come from communities facing similar economic hardships, you may also be wondering how you’ll build decent lives for yourselves if you choose to return to those communities.

But I would encourage you to call upon the same hope and hard work that brought you to this day. Call upon that optimism and tenacity that built the University of California at Merced to invest in the future of Merced in your own home towns all across this country. By using what you have learned here, you can shorten the path perhaps for kids who may not see a path at all.

And I was once one of those kids. Most of you were once one of those kids. I grew up just a few miles from the University of Chicago in my hometown. The university, like most institutions, was a major cultural, economic institution in my neighborhood. My mother even worked as a secretary there for several years.

Yet that university never played a meaningful role in my academic development. The institution made no effort to reach out to me — a bright and promising student in their midst — and I had no reason to believe there was a place for me there. Therefore, when it came time for me to apply to college, I never for one second considered the university in my own backyard as a viable option.

And as fate would have it, I ultimately went on and accepted a position in student affairs at the University of Chicago more than a decade later. What I found was that working within the institution gave me the opportunity to express my concerns about how little role the university plays in the life of its neighbors. I wanted desperately to be involved in helping to break down the barriers that existed between the campus and the community.

And in less than a year, through that position, I worked with others to build the university’s first Office of Community Service. And today, the office continues to provide students with opportunities to help reshape relationships between the university and its surrounding community. Students there today are volunteering in local elementary schools, serving as mentors at high schools, organizing neighborhood watches, and worshiping in local churches.

But you know a little something about working with your community here, don’t you, Merced? UC Merced, its faculty and its students seem to already have a handle on this need and it speaks once again to the character of this community. As I learned more about what you have done, I am so impressed with how the students, faculty and the community are collaborating to ensure that every child in this community understands there is a place for them at this big beautiful university if they study hard and stay out of trouble.

For example, there is Kevin Mitchell, a professor in the School of Natural Science, who studies chaos, of all things. He’s coordinating a program to bring physicists into local elementary and high schools to help open the eyes of students to the possibility of careers in science.

Then there is Claudia Zepeda, a junior psychology major, who is mentoring students from her high school here. The first in her family to attend college, Claudia works with the Westside Initiative for Leaders, an organization that helps prepare disadvantaged students for college. And because of her help, 10 students from her high school will attend UC Merced this coming fall. That is amazing. [applause]

And then there are local leaders like police officer, Nick Navarette — (applause) — who coordinates a program that brings about 60 UC Merced students to local elementary schools each week to mentor students from poorer neighborhoods. Nick then brings kids to campus regularly so that they can do something special; see what it’s like to be on a college campus, and begin to dream.

And then there is my friend and former law school professor, Charles Ogletree, a product of the Merced public schools. [applause] Now, he is an example of how you can bring your skills back. His ambitions took him far away from home, but he has never forgotten where he came from.

Each year, with his help, Merced’s high schools are able to hand out scholarships, not just for the best and the brightest students, but also for many students who are just stuck in poverty and simply need a hand up to compete.

So the faculty, the students, local leaders, Merced alumni, everyone here is doing their part to help the children of Merced realize that access to a quality education is available to them as long as they work hard, study hard and apply themselves.

It is this kind of commitment that we’re going to need in this nation to put this country back on a path where every child expects to succeed and where every child has the tools that they need to achieve their dreams. That’s what we’re aiming for. [applause] And we’re going to need all of you, graduates, this generation, we need you to lead the way.

Now, let me tell you, careers focused on lifting up our communities — whether it’s helping transform troubled schools or creating after-school programs or training workers for green jobs — these careers are not always obvious, but today they are necessary. Solutions to our nation’s most challenging social problems are not going to come from Washington alone. Real innovation often starts with individuals who apply themselves to solve a problem right in their own community. That’s where the best ideas come from.

And some pretty incredible social innovations have been launched by young people all across this world.

Teach for America in this country is a great example. It was created by Wendy Kopp as a part of her undergraduate senior thesis in 1989. And now, as a result of her work then, more than 6,200 corps members are teaching in our country’s neediest communities, reaching approximately 400,000 students.

And then there’s Van Jones, who recently joined the Obama administration, a special adviser to the President on green jobs. Van started out as a grassroots organizer and became an advocate and a creator of “green collar” jobs — jobs that are not only good for the environment, but also provide good wages and career advancement for both skilled and unskilled workers; jobs similar to the ones being created right here at UC Merced as this green campus continues to grow.

And then one of my heroes, Geoffrey Canada, grew up in the South Bronx. After graduating from Bowdoin and getting his masters at Harvard, he returned to New York City and used his education to ensure that the next generation would have a chance at the same opportunity. Geoffrey’s Harlem Children’s Zone is a nationally recognized program that covers 100 blocks and reaches nearly 10,000 children with a variety of social services to ensure that all kids are prepared to get a good education.

And in an effort to invest in and encourage the future Wendy Kopps, Van Joneses and Geoffrey Canadas, the Obama administration recently launched the Office of Social Innovation at the White House. The President has asked Congress to provide $50 million in seed capital to fund great ideas like the ones I just described. The Office is going to identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country.

And this university is blessed with some of the leading researchers and academics who are focusing already their attention on solving some of our nation’s most critical issues, like the energy crisis, global warming, climate change, and air pollution.

And you, the students, the graduates and faculty on this campus, you’re capable of changing the world, that’s for sure. Where you are right now is no different from where Wendy and Van and Geoffrey were when they graduated, remember that. You too can have this same transformative effect on the community of Merced and our entire nation. We need your ideas, graduates. We need your resourcefulness. We need your inventiveness.

And as the students who helped build this school, I ask you, make your legacy a lasting one. Dream big, think broadly about your life, and please make giving back to your community a part of that vision. Take the same hope and optimism, the hard work and tenacity that brought you to this point, and carry that with you for the rest of your life in whatever you choose to do. Each and every single day, some young person is out there changing the ways — the world in ways both big and small.

But let me tell you something, as you step out into that big, open world, and you start building your lives, the truth is that you will face tough times, you will certainly have doubts, let me tell you, because I know I did when I was your age. There will be days when you will worry about whether you’re really up for the challenge. Maybe some of you already feel a little of that right now. Maybe you’re wondering: Am I smart enough? Do I really belong? Can I live up to all those expectations that everyone has of me?

And you will definitely have your share of setbacks. Count on it. Your best laid plans will be consumed by obstacles. Your excellent ideas will be peppered with flaws. You will be confronted with financial strains as your loans become due and salaries fall short of both expectations and expenses. You will make mistakes that will shatter your confidence. You will make compromises that will test your convictions. You will find that there is rarely a clear and direct path to any of your visions. And you will find that you’ll have to readjust again and again and again. And there may be times when you wonder whether it’s all worth it. And there may be moments when you just want to quit.

But in those moments, those inevitable moments, I urge you to think about this day. Look around you. Look around you. There are thousands and thousands of hardworking people who have helped you get to this point, people who are celebrating with you today, who are praying for you every single day, and others who couldn’t be here, for whatever reason. I want you to think of the people who sacrificed for you — you know that — family members who worked a third job to get you through, who took on the extra shifts to get you through, who put off doing something important for themselves to get you to this day.

And think about the friends who never got the chance to go to college but were still invested in your success — friends who talked you out of dropping out, friends who kept you out of trouble so that you could graduate on time, friends who forced you to study when you wanted to procrastinate. [laughter]

Most importantly, though, think of the millions of kids living all over this world who will never come close to having the chance to stand in your shoes — kids in New Orleans whose schools are still recovering from the ravages of Katrina; kids who will never go to school at all because they’re forced to work in a sweat shop somewhere; kids in your very own communities who just can’t get a break, who don’t have anyone in their lives telling them that they’re good enough and smart enough to do whatever they can imagine; kids who have lost the ability to dream. These kids are desperate to find someone or something to cling to. They are looking to you for some sign of hope.

So, whenever you get ready to give up, think about all of these people and remember that you are blessed. Remember that you are blessed. Remember that in exchange for those blessings, you must give something back. [applause] You must reach back and pull someone up. You must bend down and let someone else stand on your shoulders so that they can see a brighter future.

As advocate and activist Marian Wright Edelman says, “Service is the rent we pay for living…it is the true measure, the only measure of our success.” So, graduates, when times get tough and fear sets in, think of those people who paved the way for you and those who are counting on you to pave the way for them. Never let setbacks or fear dictate the course of your life. Hold on to the possibility and push beyond the fear. Hold on to the hope that brought you here today, the hope of laborers and immigrants, settlers and slaves, whose blood and sweat built this community and made it possible for you to sit in these seats.

There are a lot of people in your lives who know a little something about the power of hope. Don’t we, parents and grandparents? [applause] Look, I know a little something about the power of hope. My husband knows a little something about the power of hope. [applause]

You are the hope of Merced and of this nation. And be the realization of our dreams and the hope for the next generation. We believe in you. Thank you so much, and good luck. God bless you all.

Michelle Obama’s Commencement Addresshttps://www.huffpost.com/entry/michelle-obama-commenceme_n_204302?guccounter=1

Michelle Bachelet

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (1951– ) is a Social Democrat politician who was President of Chile (2006–2010). She was the first female president of her country. In September 2010 Bachelet was appointed as the head of UN Women by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Bachelet won the 2006 presidential election in a runoff, beating center-right businessman and former senator Sebastián Piñera (who eventually succeeded Bachelet as President) with 53.5% of the vote. She campaigned on a platform of continuing Chile’s free-market policies, while increasing social benefits to help reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Bachelet, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with studies in military strategy, served as Health Minister and Defense Minister under her predecessor, President Ricardo Lagos. She is a separated mother of three and describes herself as an agnostic. As well as her native Spanish, she speaks English, German, Portuguese and French, with varying levels of fluency.

On Dag Hammarskjold’s legacy (2011)

UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, keynote speech on Dag Hammarskjold’s Legacy in the 21st century. New York, 22 September 2011.

Mr. Secretary-General,
Mr. Prime Minister,
Dear friends,

Michelle Bachelet
Michelle Bachelet

Let me first express my pleasure to address you here at the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld. The honour to talk about his legacy is certainly as great as the challenge of doing justice to his inspirational impact on the United Nations and his role in enabling the UN to be a dynamic and proactive instrument for international peace and security.

At a time when the world was ruled by the division of superpowers, Dag Hammarskjöld showed courageous leadership in guiding the United Nations to be a mechanism to empower governments to prevent tensions before they escalate into war. In Asia, in Africa and the Middle East, he personified the power of dialogue in alleviating conflicts. His dedication to the pursuit of peace and progress, his talent in easing tensions and his personal commitment to establish more independence and effectiveness in the post of Secretary-General have all been infinite sources of inspiration for our actions as UN officials, as political leaders and as human beings.

Dag Hammarskjöld deeply believed in a proactive approach to peacemaking. His commitment to preventive diplomacy marked a profound change in the traditional conceptions of peace and security. He taught us that preventive diplomacy is not an abstract art of anticipation. Effective conflict prevention and resolution require thorough analysis of the causes, triggers, dynamics and patterns of conflict, as well as the factors and social dynamics that strengthen a community’s resilience to conflict. Early analysis and ongoing monitoring are essential for anticipating conflict and for transforming conflict dynamics so that social groups committed to non-violent conflict resolution can be supported. Echoing his vision, in recent years a number of United Nations organizations have developed conflict warning, assessment and analysis frameworks to enhance their operations in conflict-sensitive areas.

History bears out the important function of women in anticipating and preventing conflict. Let me give an example from West Africa. In 2005, Guinean women involved in cross-border trade activities they experienced a sudden increase in incidents of gender-based violence in the areas bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia. This information was communicated to the State authorities, and these reports led to targeted interventions by defense and security forces to counteract the movements of illegal armed groups. In this and in other contexts, women’s perspectives on tensions in social relations, their awareness of threats to personal, family and community security, their knowledge of the flow of small arms and light weapons through communities, all add up to a complex and important system of early warning and intelligence about impending conflict.

During the Congo crisis of 1960-61, Dag Hammarskjöld embodied a new approach of peacemaking in which official negotiations are only part of a conflict resolution continuum, ranging from early warning to peacekeeping and longer term peacebuilding. This philosophy is reflected in subsequent developments and most recently in important changes in the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, with the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office. These instruments recognise that preventive diplomacy and dialogue are crucial and cost-effective means of preventing outbreaks or recurrence of violence.

While Dag Hammarskjold might have anticipated and welcomed these changes, there is one change that he might not have anticipated, but I am sure he would have welcomed, and that is the prominent role of women in the prevention of conflict and the building of peace. Dag Hammarskjold was a man of his era, when there was no UN agency or entity dedicated to advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality. The creation of UN Women represents an important new component of the UN’s institutional provisions in preventive diplomacy as well as in many other areas related to peace, security, and development more generally. UN Women is acting on the widespread recognition that the inclusiveness of peace processes and the democratization of conflict resolution generally, are crucial to sustained peace. And women’s engagement in conflict resolution and democratisation is well-understood to be an effective method of building inclusiveness and broad social engagement in sustaining peace.

For the last 50 years, calls for inclusiveness have been constantly repeated in the international normative framework on mediation and more recently in resolutions on women, peace and security. Since 2000, the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General have repeatedly called for the inclusion of dedicated gender expertise and greater numbers of women in peace negotiations.

However, although effective conflict prevention needs women’s engagement in conflict analysis, monitoring and diplomacy, it remains unfortunately the case that there is a long way to go in effectively engaging women in conflict resolution. In addition, even though gender inequality is known to play a role in exacerbating conflict, conflict prevention frameworks still do not include efforts to end discrimination against women. A full decade after Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was unanimously adopted, the women remain strikingly absent from formal peace negotiations. Gender-based inequalities and extremes in discrimination against women are not issues regularly tracked in conflict early warning systems. This reveals a troubling gap between the aspirations of global and regional commitments and the reality of peace processes.

War is still largely conceived as a confrontation of two belligerent actors made up of male soldiers. Most peacemaking efforts have focused on secret talks between male leaders and therefore they have further marginalized entire parts of conflict-affected societies. Women’s empowerment and their participation in public life are still not seen as essential to sustained peace and democratization. It is still commonly believed that the specific threats women face should be addressed only once broader security issues are solved; that their voices should be heard only once peace is consolidated; that their needs will be considered once the country is stabilized.

This is a perpetrator-centered paradigm of peacebuilding, not a peacebuilder-centered one. It focuses on the disruptive role of potential ‘spoilers’ of the peace, not on the constructive potential of building a broad social constituency for peace. It is time for this paradigm to change. Women’s inclusion in conflict prevention and resolution is not only a matter of human rights. As the current Secretary-General stated recently in his report on women’s participation in peacebuilding, ensuring women’s participation is critical “in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am not here to tell you that women are more committed than men to promoting the greater good for the population. All women are not by essence attached to peace or better connected to the grassroots. Like men, they are exposed to political, ethnic, or religious tensions. Just like men, they may contribute to violence and participate in armed groups. But more than men, women have direct experience of the brutal consequences of violent conflict and often bear the extra burden of a vastly lower social and economic status. As the first victims of sexual and gender-based violence, they often see more clearly how conflict stretches from the beating at home to the rapes and killings on the streets and the battlefield. As such, they also are critical in bringing peace back to the communities. During the summer 2010 crisis, women in Southern Kyrgyzstan mobilized into informal groups of peace activists, and took responsibility for providing immediate support to conflict survivors and for demanding that the specific needs of women and vulnerable groups be taken into account in the post-conflict recovery process. With support from UN Women, these groups are now institutionalized in 20 local Women Peace Committees. From the village to the province levels, they constantly advocate for inclusion of women and they continuously contribute to the processes of conflict prevention and peacemaking in the South of Kyrgyzstan.

In spite of the resistance that women often face and the exhaustion of conflict-affected women and girls, they have continued to find creative ways of expressing their concerns in peace processes. When excluded from the peace talks, they have held parallel processes of their own. When locked out of the rooms where decisions are made, women have pushed their position papers and their recommendations through the gaps under the doors. When ignored, they have approached decision-makers on airport tarmacs or barricaded the meeting room to force the delegates to reach a settlement, as in Liberia in 2003. When silenced, they have taken to the streets and even the chamber of the UN Security Council to make themselves heard. In Northern Ireland, Guatemala or El Salvador, women’s inputs broadened the scope of the peace talks and have a bias towards a longer term, focusing on how a peaceful society might be achieved, rather than simply looking to accomplish an immediate cessation of violence.

However, too many of these initiatives remain small-scale, ad hoc and/or under-funded.

If women’s contribution to conflict prevention and participation in the peace process is not significantly increased, if we, as the United Nations, don’t join our efforts to break the vicious cycle of their exclusion, our pursuit of sustainable and equitable peace is in danger. Dag Hammarskjöld once asked: “Do we refer to the purposes of the Charter? They are expressions of universally shared ideals which cannot fail us, though we, alas, often fail them. Or do we think of the institutions of the United Nations? They are our tools. We fashioned them. We use them.

Dag Hammarskjöld knew that the pursuit of peace cannot be left up to good-willing individuals only. He taught us that the United Nations must be an instrument of change. In its brief existence, UN Women has already strengthened many partnerships within and outside the UN family to advance the women, peace and security agenda. In cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Margot Wallstrom, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; UN Women developed scenario-based training materials for peacekeepers on how to protect women in conflict situations from high levels of sexual violence. The recently launched joint strategy on gender and mediation jointly implemented by UN Women and the Department of Political Affairs seeks to increase the availability and quality of gender expertise in mediation processes; and support greater and more effective participation by women at all levels of conflict resolution and peacemaking.

There is still much that must be done to fulfill Dag Hammarskjöld’s visionary project of an inclusive and integrated preventive diplomacy process. A number of bottlenecks specific to the United Nations system still hinder women’s representation in the peace process. More women must be identified and appointed as Special Envoys and technical experts to mediation teams. Training is needed so that mediators, mediation experts and women’s rights advocates on gender issues in peace processes can address gender issues. In addition, institutional mechanisms are needed to ensure women’s participation in conflict-resolution efforts, as part of delegations, observers or as third party participants.

In 1955, Dag Hammarskjöld warned us that the UN must not work in isolation from its beneficiaries, and thus the founding values of the institution. He stated, “Everything will be all right — you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.

Inclusiveness is not an outcome of a peace process; it is the very foundation of the process.

Fifty years after the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, it is now time to fulfill his vision for men and women to equally become agents of peace. In UN Women they have a steadfast, committed partner.

UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, keynote speech on Dag Hammarskjold’s Legacy  – https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2011/9/un-women-executive-director-michelle-bachelet-keynote-speech-on-dag-hammarskjold-s-legacy

Tony Blair

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He resigned from all of these positions in June 2007.

Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election of July 1994, following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under his leadership, the party used the phrases “New Labour” and “New Socialism” to define its policy, and moved away from its support of state socialism since the 1960s and created a new version of the ethical socialism that was last pursued by Clement Attlee. Critics of Blair claim that “New Labour” did not adhere to socialism as claimed, and that it effectively advocated capitalism. Blair subsequently led Labour to a landslide victory in the 1997 general election. At 43 years old, he became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. In the first years of the New Labour government, Blair’s government implemented a number of 1997 manifesto pledges, introducing the minimum wage, Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act, and carrying out devolution, establishing the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Blair’s role as Prime Minister was particularly visible in foreign and security policy, including in Northern Ireland, where he was involved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported the foreign policy of US President George W. Bush, notably by participating in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair is the Labour Party’s longest-serving Prime Minister, the only person to have led the Labour Party to three consecutive general election victories, and the only Labour Prime Minister to serve consecutive terms more than one of which was at least four years long.

He was succeeded as Leader of the Labour Party on 24 June 2007 and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007 by Gordon Brown. On the day he resigned as Prime Minister, he was appointed the official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. In May 2008, Blair launched his Tony Blair Faith Foundation. This was followed in July 2009 by the launching of the Faith and Globalisation Initiative with Yale University in the US, Durham University in the UK and the National University of Singapore in Asia to deliver a postgraduate programme in partnership with the Foundation.


“Rethinking leadership for development” (2011)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 in Office of Tony Blair, Africa Governance Initiative

Full text of Tony Blair’s speech to the Overseas Development Institute event ‘Rethinking Leadership for Development’. Drawing on his time as Prime Minister and more recently, the work of the Africa Governance Initiative, Tony Blair gave his reflections on the visionary African leaders who are tackling poverty by transforming government, and what the international community needs to do differently to support them.

We should never forget the first purpose of aid. Alongside the obvious mission to help those in need, its purpose is to help countries stand on their own feet. The purpose, in other words, should be to use aid to end aid.

For the first time this is possible to foresee. That is a sign of progress. There’s a new generation of African leaders – in politics, business and civil society who are anxious to take the destiny of their nations into their own hands.

We should encourage and support them. That’s the challenge for the international community – and the many eminent development leaders in the room today – and it’s the idea behind the Africa Governance Initiative to help make it happen. None of this is to discount the vital role aid has played in saving lives in Africa.

Access to anti-retroviral drugs for those living with aids has increased tenfold since 2001, notably through the PEPFAR(1) programme and the work of the Gates and Clinton Foundations.

Literally millions have benefited every year. Measles deaths have been halved through vaccination programmes. Malaria has fallen sharply in many parts of Africa. So aid works, for sure, in areas like disease, famine and in relieving the worst effects of poverty.

When I chaired the G8(2) in 2005 and put aid and debt cancellation at the top of the agenda. I did so because I knew these commitments would have a big and lasting effect.

But the other part of the Summit was a focus on partnership and on the work of the Commission for Africa. That report stressed, instead, the need to move beyond aid alone

We recognised that a partnership was a two-way street.

The wealthy nations would give; but it was important to give in such a way as to create the ability of the African countries to govern effectively. That means, getting behind African governments’ own priorities and using local systems to deliver aid. The Paris Principles are still the right ones for how aid should be delivered –and the international community needs to live up to those principles.

And for the African countries we placed an emphasis on governance and helped establish peer reviews to test it. But governance for me has never been a simple evaluation of systems of transparency and accountability. Of course, the growth of democracy is one of the great signs of progress in Africa. But governance is also about effectiveness the capability to get things done. It is here that African leaders need support.

Assume good faith; usually the correct assumption nowadays. Assume the right vision; often the case.

The tough part is not wanting to do the right thing or even knowing what the right thing means. It is actually doing it that is hard.

The challenge is less the “what” than the “how”.

Many of the leaders I know in Africa – and elsewhere – will work 18 hour days, 7 days a week. Prioritisation is hard when resources are scarce. And with capacity around them so low, they end up trying to do everything themselves. With the additional demands of diplomacy, international meetings and social/political events, with precious little time spent on priorities. Their governments do not have the capabilities to support them as they need. The capacity to implement, track and monitor performance isn’t there.

Development plans will have 150 priorities. Actually only five can realistically be done in a term. And even if the centre has the capacity, the Ministries don’t.

African governments have made huge progress in growing their private sectors and attracting investment –which has to be the long term answer. But often private sector investment arrives in a random way, sometimes from investors of dubious quality. Decisions are haphazard, even if honest. And in the area of resources, how the deal is structured and done can be the single most determining factor in the economic future of the nation.

What AGI(3) offers is help, there on the ground, from people who have done it, not just talked about it. We understand that the right technical answer will not always be politically or practically do-able. We know that if you miss the politics, you miss the point. And we start from the position that it is Africa’s priorities not ours that are on the agenda and that in achieving them, you need some political realism in the plan.

We started in three countries and we’re now moving into a fourth with more countries asking for our support and we believe the results are the best witness.

To take just one example, Free Healthcare had been knocking around as an idea in Sierra Leone for decades. And there were even donor resources available to support the reform. Including very generous backing from DfID(4). But until the government lined up the political will –a clear lead from President Koroma –and the basic systems to manage the reform nothing happened. Once those things were in place the reform happened at speed. With great results: since Free Healthcare for mothers and young children was introduced almost three times as many under-5s were treated in government health facilities than during the previous 12 months, leading to an 80% reduction in child deaths in hospital from malaria, thereby saving thousands of lives.

But the reason it can work today is that we find we have colleagues from those countries working alongside the AGI team who are convinced effective government is the key. And, because the capacity we support is clearly linked to the political priorities of the leadership, there’s a real drive behind the changes

So if these nations have, for example, power, electricity and basic infrastructure, the world opens up to them. Their natural resources can then be exploited and there is no sensible reason why they can’t then create a tax base, raise revenue and develop services like health and education. What’s more with innovation and the use of technology, they can move ahead rapidly. But without the first step being taken by clear decisions made and implemented, they remain mired in underdevelopment and pretty soon the fine visions of progress are lost in a sea of disillusion and resentment. That is why democracy and delivery must go hand in hand.

So capacity is the answer; indeed the only long term answer. It has to be built in partnership and through systems of effective and structured decision making. Round the world the lessons are there and available.

I spent ten years learning them and though obviously it is different in a developed country like Britain, it is remarkable how many are applicable universally: deciding priorities; getting the right policy to achieve them; execution skills to deliver them; and tracking them, at the top, to make sure it really happens.

This is not an impossible hope. It could be done. Ending aid dependency in a generation is not an idle dream; it’s an idea whose time has come. It is a challenge to the international community. It is a challenge to the leaders of developing nations. It is where a true partnership between developed and developing nations should take us.


(1) PEPFAR: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a commitment of $15 billion over five years (2003–2008) from United States President George W. Bush to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PEPFAR).

(2) G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

(3) AGI: Africa Governance Initiative, founded by Tony Blair, a registered UK charity.

(4) DfID: Department for International Development of the United Kingdom government, with a Cabinet Minister in charge.

David McCullough, Jr.

David McCullough, Jr. is a graduate of Lafayette College and the Bread Loaf School of English. He taught for sixteen years at Punahou School in Honolulu, and has taught English at Wellesley High School near Boston since 2002.

“You’re not special” (2012)

Wellesley, Massachusetts is a special place. The town, home to Wellesley College, Babson College, and several other private schools, is affluent and well-educated. Former astronauts, famous writers, and brilliant scientists have all resided in Wellesley. The town is known for its excellent public school system, its many golf courses, and its proximity to downtown Boston.

The town also has a nurturing atmosphere in which children thrive. Wellesley High School’s students have a 98.3 percent graduation rate, and 95.1 percent earn a score of 3-5 on AP exams. These kids are born and bred for success.

That’s what worries McCullough. “If you remove from the kid the notion that every step is crucially important, all expectations are spectacular achievement, and allow him to operate free from adult scrutiny and be a regular kid and follow his interests, it makes for a much healthier educational attitude,” he said.

Since he first began teaching 26 years ago, McCullough says, priorities have shifted greatly. “[Students] have become ever more intent on assembling an impressive GPA… A ‘B’ is now understood to be an average grade. And because the grade is the point and to be average is to be a bit of a loser – everyone has to be high achieving.”

Today’s adults grew up with asphalt playgrounds, playing outside unsupervised until dinner. But today’s kids are strapped in car seats from birth, and McCollough sees his students slowly losing autonomy. “The kids now seem so directed and scheduled – they’re tutored and coached and the degree to which parents are involved in their lives is … well, one notices,” he said. “They’re getting very little experience conducting their own lives and living with the consequences of their decisions. When they stumble, their parents step in, denying them very important formative experiences.”

McCullough encourages his students to go out and see the world – travel, buy a boat, climb mountains, work in Haiti, join the armed forces, or go to the library and simply start reading anything and everything that interests them.

Amy Quick Parrish | May 7, 2014 | Advice to High-School Graduates: ‘You Are Not Special’https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/05/advice-to-the-graduates-you-are-not-special/361463/

David McCullough 2
David McCullough, Jr.: “You’re not special”

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful. Thank you.

So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. [laughter] Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. [laughter] Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. [laughter] No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? [laughter] Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief [laughter], their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. [laughter] Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… [laughter] on the way to the refrigerator. [laughter] And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. [laughter] A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time. From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, [laughter] through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. [laughter] That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. [laughter] Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, [laughter] each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special. [laughter]

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, [laughter] your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you are nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. [laughter] Yes, you have. [laughter] And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. [laughter] Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! [laughter] And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building… But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee – I am allowed to say Needham, yes? [laughter] …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. [laughter] But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. [laughter & applause] Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… [laughter] although that hair is quite a phenomenon. [laughter]

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality – we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic – and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) [laughter] I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. [laughter] The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. [laughter] The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, [laughter] let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives. [long applause and whistles]

Wellesley High grads told: “You’re not special”http://www.theswellesleyreport.com/2012/06/wellesley-high-grads-told-youre-not-special/

Pope Francis

Pope Francis born Jorge Mario Bergoglio; (1936- ) is the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, a position also holding the roles of Sovereign of Vatican City and the Bishop of Rome. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.

Born in Buenos Aires as the son of Italian parents, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technician before entering seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1969. From 1973 to 1979 he was Argentina’s Provincial superior of the Society of Jesus. He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and a cardinal in 2001. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, on 13 March 2013 the papal conclave elected Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere.

Throughout his life, both as an individual and a religious leader, Bergoglio has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. Since his election to the papacy, he has displayed a simpler and less formal approach to the office, choosing to reside in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the papal residence.

Inaugural Mass Homily (2013)

The Papal inauguration of Pope Francis was held on 19 March 2013 in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Holy Mass was celebrated by Pope Francis before political and religious leaders from around the world. It was the first papal inauguration attended by the Patriarch of Constantinople in over 1,000 years.

Pope Francis delivered his homily in Italian. He focused on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the liturgical day on which the Mass was celebrated. He stated that everyone needs to care for the earth and for each other as Joseph cared for Jesus and Mary. He set forth a plan of his own actions: “The pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service, which has its radiant culmination on the cross.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

Pope Francis’s Inaugural Mass Homily – Full Texthttp://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-franciss-inaugural-mass-full-text#ixzz2Zx6x1Ua1

Malala Yousafzai

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (1997– ) first came to public attention in 2009 after she anonymously wrote an affecting BBC diary about life under the Taliban.

Three years later, in October 2012, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman because of her campaign for girls’ education. By then she had become well known in Pakistan, but that one shocking act catapulted her to international fame.

She survived the dramatic assault, in which a militant boarded her school bus in Pakistan’s north-western Swat valley and opened fire, wounding two of her school-friends as well.

The story of her slow recovery, from delicate surgery at a Pakistani military hospital to further operations and a programme of rehabilitation in the UK, has since been closely tracked by the world’s media.

She was discharged from hospital in January 2013 and her life now is unimaginably different to anything she may have envisaged when she was an anonymous voice chronicling the fears of schoolgirls under the shadow of the Taliban.

She is named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people in 2013, and shares the Nobel Peace Prize.

Speech at the United Nations (2013)

On 12 July 2013, the first ever Youth Takeover of the UN took place, organised by the President of the UN General Assembly, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and A World at School, an initiative from Theirworld.

A World at School and partners brought together hundreds of young education advocates from around the world, including Malala Yousafzai, who made her first public speech since being attacked by the Taliban in Pakistan.

In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.

Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon,
Respected President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic,
Honourable UN Envoy for Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown,
Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.

Today, is it an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honour for me that today I am wearing a shawl [her hand touching her shawl] of the late Benazir Bhutto Shahid.

Malala at UN

I don’t know where to begin my speech. I don’t know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good-wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support Mr Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy, Mr Gordon Brown, and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists, and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.

So here I stand… so here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but for those without voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends,

On the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. [applause and shouts] I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same.

Dear sisters and brothers,

I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak up for the right of education for every child [applause]. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists.

I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the Prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. [applause] This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. [applause] This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers,

We realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.

The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword” was true. The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they killedl female teachers and polio workers in Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were, and they are, afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society.

And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist: “Why are the Taliban against education?” He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said: “A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.” They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who send girls to the hell just because they are going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefit. [applause]

Pakistan is a peace-loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says it’s not only each child’s right to get education, rather it’s their duty and responsibility.

Honourable Secretary General,

Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world. In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Dear fellows,

Today, I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. [applause and shouts] I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights, rather I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves.

So dear sisters and brothers,

Now it’s time to speak up.

So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity.

We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable. [applause]

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. [applause]

We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm.

We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world.

We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.

Education is the only solution. Education first.

Thank you. [standing ovation and shouts]

Malala Yousafzai’s address to the UNhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtprX8i2k-Q

Vladimir Putin

PutinVladimir Vladimirovich Putin (1952– ) is the President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. In between his presidential terms, he was also the Prime Minister of Russia under president Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin was born in Leningrad and studied Law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975. Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before resigning in 1991 to enter politics in Saint Petersburg. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin’s administration where he served as director of the FSB, the KGB’s successor agency, and then as prime minister. He became Acting President on 31 December 1999, when Yeltsin resigned.

Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has experienced democratic backsliding. Experts do not generally consider Russia to be a democracy, citing purges and jailing of political opponents, curtailed press freedom, and the lack of free and fair elections. Russia has scored poorly in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and experienced democratic backsliding according to both the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index (including a record low 20/100 rating in the 2017 Freedom in the World report, a rating not given since the time of the Soviet Union).

A plea for caution from Russia (2013)

The New York Times has a new op-ed contributor – step forward Vladimir V Putin, president of Russia.

Although his article is headlined “A plea for caution from Russia”, it is more of a warning than a plea. Coming so soon after the TV address to the US people by President Obama, it is an obvious attempt to spin an alternative line about the Syrian conflict.

Putin then sets out his analysis of the situation within Syria before reiterating his opinion that the Damascus gas attack of 21 August was not launched by the forces acting for Bashar al-Assad.

Putin then moves on to make a general point. It is “alarming” he writes that it “has become commonplace” for the US to engage in “military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries.”

He calls for an end to “the language of force” and a “return to the path of civilised diplomatic and political settlement.”

After writing of his appreciation that his “working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust” he confronts Obama’s claim to “American exceptionalism.”

What is certainly exceptional is the fact that Putin chose the New York Times to publicise his message. It is a feather in the newspaper’s cap, confirming its status as America’s major national title.


Published: September 11, 2013

MOSCOW – Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization – the United Nations – was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack – this time against Israel – cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

A Plea for Caution From Russiahttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat HanhZen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (1926– ) is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his pioneering teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace.

Ordained as monk aged 16 in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh soon envisioned a kind of engaged Buddhism that could respond directly to the needs of society.

He was a prominent teacher and social activist in his home country before finding himself exiled for calling for peace.

In the West he played a key role in introducing mindfulness and created mindful communities (sanghas) around the world. His teachings have impacted politicians, business leaders, activists, teachers and countless others.

Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 books including classics like The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace is Every Step.

Speech at the Vatican (2014)

On 2 December 2014, a delegation of monks and nuns from Plum Village travelled to the Vatican to represent Thich Nhat Hanh at a Summit of World Faith Leaders to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. At the time, Thich Nhat Hanh was still critically ill in hospital in Bordeaux, France, following his stroke on 11 November. Venerable Bhikshuni Sister Chan Khong read his speech to the assembly, and together with Thay Phap An, signed the declaration with Thay’s own seal, as he had wished.

Your Holinesses, Your Excellencies, Your Emminencies, dear Most Venerables, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. Please allow me to read the words that our Beloved Teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, wished to deliver here today:

“We are grateful to gather today to announce to the world our commitment to work together to end Modern Slavery; and to plea to those who traffic in human beings to stop their exploitation; and to ask world leaders and organisations to protect the dignity of these young women, men and children. They are our daughters and sons, our sisters and brothers.

“It is clear that in this age of globalisation, what happens to one of us, happens to us all. We are all interconnected, and we are all co-responsible. But even with the greatest good will, if we are swept away by our daily concerns for material needs or emotional comforts, we will be too busy to realise our common aspiration.

“Contemplation must go together with action. Without a spiritual practice we will abandon our dream very soon.

“Each of us, according to the teaching of our own tradition, should practice to touch deeply the wonders of Nature, the wonders of life in each of us, the Kingdom of God in each of us, the Pure Land, Nirvana in each of us, so we can get the healing and nourishment, the joy and happiness born from the insight that the Kingdom of God is already available in the here and now. The feeling of love and admiration for nature, that we all share, has the power to nourish us, unite us, and remove all separation and discrimination.

“By being in touch with everything that is refreshing and healing, we can free ourselves from our daily concerns for material comforts, and will have a lot more time and energy to realise our ideal of bringing freedom and compassion to all living beings. As it says in the Gospel, “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or wear. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

“In our work to end modern slavery, we must find the time to take care of ourselves, and to take care of the present moment. By doing so, we can find some relative peace in our body and mind to continue our work. We need to recognise and embrace our own suffering, our anger, fear, and despair so that the energy of compassion can be maintained in our hearts. When we have more clarity in our mind, we will have compassion not only for the victims, but for the traffickers themselves. When we see that the traffickers have suffered, we can help them wake up and stop what they are doing. Our compassion can help transform them into friends and allies of our cause.

“In order to sustain our work of compassion, we all need a spiritual community to support us and protect us – a real community, where there is true brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion and understanding. We should not do this work as cavaliers seuls, as lone warriors. The roots of modern slavery run deep, and the causes and conditions, the networks and structures supporting it are complex. That is why we need to build a community that can continue this work to protect human life not just until 2020, but long into the future.

“The world in which we live is globalized, and so too is this new form of slavery, that is connected to the economic, political and social systems. Therefore our ethics and morality also need to be globalized. A new global order calls for a new global ethic. We have to sit down together, as people of many traditions, as we are doing now, to find the causes of this suffering. If we look deeply together, with clarity, calm and peace, we will understand the causes of modern slavery, and we can find a way out.”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Speech at the Vatican, December 2, 2014 – https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/letters/thich-nhat-hanhs-speech-at-the-vatican-december-2-2014/

William H. McRaven

William Harry McRaven (1955– ) is a full Admiral in the United States Navy and since August 2011, Commander of the United States Special Operations Command. He previously served from June 13, 2008 to August 2011 as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and from June 2006 to March 2008 as Commander, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). In addition to his duties as COMSOCEUR, he was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre (NSCC), where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and inter-operability of all NATO Special Operations Forces.

McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, stressed the importance of making your bed every morning, taking on obstacles headfirst, and realizing that it’s OK to be a “sugar cookie.”

Head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, he is a 36-year SEAL who has been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He has commanded a squadron in the fabled Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and he oversaw planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

He is also the most mysterious and guarded Navy four-star. McRaven shies away from the spotlight. In fact, outside the special operations community, he rose all the way to four-star without attracting much notice until Operation Neptune Spear.

Commencement Speech, University of Texas at Austin (2014)

16 May 2014

Students at the University of Texas at Austin got a rare treat when McRaven delivered their commencement speech. McRaven, a 1977 UT grad, riffed on the school’s motto (“What starts here changes the world.”) to deliver the 10 lessons he learned during his SEAL training. Among them: If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school’s commencement.

All of his lessons were supported by personal stories from McRaven’s many years as a Navy SEAL.

Thank you very much, thank you.

Thank you President Powers, Provost Fenves, Deans, members of the faculty, family and friends and most importantly, the class of 2014. [applause and cheers] It is an honor for me to be here tonight. Congratulations on your achievement.

It’s been almost 37 years to the day that I graduated from UT. I remember a lot of things about that day. I remember I had a throbbing headache from a party the night before [cheering]. I remember I had a serious girlfriend, whom I later married [cheering] – that’s important to remember by the way – and I remember that I was getting commissioned in the Navy that day. But of all the things I remember, I don’t have a clue who the commencement speaker was, and I certainly don’t remember anything they said.

So… acknowledging that fact – if I can’t make this commencement speech memorable – I will at least try to make it short. [laughing]

The University’s slogan is, “What starts here changes the world.” I have to admit – I gotta like it. “What starts here changes the world.”

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students, or more than 8,000 students, graduating from UT. So that great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their life time. 10,000 people – that’s a lot of folks.

But, if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people – and each one of those prople changed the lives of another ten people – and another ten – then in five generations – 125 years – the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people. 800 million people [cheering] – think about it – over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world – 8 billion people.

If you think it’s hard to change the lives of ten people – change their lives forever – you’re wrong.

I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the ten soldiers with him are saved from a close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a non-commissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses that something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500 pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children were saved, and their children’s children. Generations were saved by one decision – one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is…w hat will the world look like after you change it?

Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.

And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform. It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status.

Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward – changing ourselves and the world around us – will apply equally to all.

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, California.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL. But the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships. To me basic SEAL training was a life time of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are the ten lesson’s I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Every morning in SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they do was inspect was my bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack – rack – that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task – mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we’re aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs – but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made [laughter] – that you made – and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

So, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. [applause & laughter]

During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students – three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in.

Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach. For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can’t change the world alone – you will need some help – and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 42 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys – the munchkin crew we called them – no one was over about 5-foot five.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish American, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west. They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh – swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.

Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges. But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle – – it just wasn’t good enough.

The instructors would find “something” wrong. For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day – cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right – it was unappreciated. Those students didn’t make it through training. Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform – the instructions were not going to allow it.

Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.

It’s just the way life is sometimes.

If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events – long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics – something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards – times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those times, those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to – a “circus.”

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics – designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.

No one wanted a circus.

A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue – and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult – and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during SEAL training, everyone – everyone – made the circus list.

But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Overtime those students- – who did two hours of extra calisthenics – got stronger and stronger.

The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency.

Life is filled with circuses.

You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope.

You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977.

The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life – head first.

Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move – seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.

Without hesitation – the student slid down the rope – perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

During the land warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island which lies off the coast of San Diego.

The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for the great white sharks. To pass SEAL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One – is the night swim.

Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente.

They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark – at least not that they can remember recently.

But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position – stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid.

And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you – then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

So, If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

As Navy SEALs one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during training. The ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles – underwater – using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target. During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you.

But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight – it blocks the surrounding street lamps – it blocks all ambient light. To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel – the centerline and the deepest part of the ship.

This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship – where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and you can fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission – is the time when you need to must be calm, when you must be calm, when you must be composed – when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

The ninth week of training is referred to as “Hell Week.” It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and – one special day at the Mud Flats – the Mud Flats are area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slue’s – a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.

As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud.

The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit – only five men, just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up – eight more hours of bone chilling cold.

The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night – one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing.

We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well.

The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing – but the singing persisted. And somehow – the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person – Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan – Malala – one person can change the world by giving people hope.

William H McRaven_summary
William H McRaven_summary

So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT – and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training.

All you have to do is Just ring the bell to get out. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

William H McRavenTo the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away starting to change the world – for the better. It will not be easy. But, you are the class of 2014 – the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up – if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and – and what started here will indeed have changed the world – for the better.

Thank you very much. Hook ’em horns.

Video http://blogs.militarytimes.com/scoopdeck/2014/05/19/top-seals-life-advice-make-your-bed/

(1) The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Component Commands of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps of the United States Armed Forces. The command is part of the Department of Defense and is the only Unified Combatant Command legislated into being by the U.S. Congress. The idea of a unified special operations command had its origins in the aftermath of Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrous attempted rescue of hostages at the American embassy in Iran in 1980. The ensuing investigation, chaired by Admiral James L. Holloway III, the retired Chief of Naval Operations, cited lack of command and control and inter-service coordination as significant factors in the failure of the mission.

(2) Hook ’em Horns is the slogan and hand signal of The University of Texas at Austin. Students and alumni of the university employ a greeting consisting of the phrase “Hook ’em” or “Hook ’em Horns” and also use the phrase as a parting good-bye or as the closing line in a letter or story. The gesture is meant to approximate the shape of the head and horns of the UT mascot, the Texas Longhorn Bevo. The sign is made by extending the index and pinky fingers while grasping the second and third fingers with the thumb.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977- ) is a Nigerian writer whose works range from novels to short stories to nonfiction. She was described in The Times Literary Supplement as “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [who] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature”.

Adichie completed her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, Nsukka, where she received several academic prizes. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

When the novelist was growing up in Nigeria, she was not used to being identified by the colour of her skin. That changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn. She writes about this in her novel Americanah. She received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001.

In 2003, she completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African studies from Yale University.

Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005–2006 academic year. In 2008 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded a 2011-2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Commencement Address at Wellesley College (2015)

Hello class of 2015.

Congratulations! And thank you for that wonderful welcome. And thank you President Bottomly for that wonderful introduction.

Adichie giving Commencement Address at Wellesley College 2015
Adichie giving Commencement Address at Wellesley College 2015

I have admired Wellesley – its mission, its story, its successes – for a long time and I thank you very much for inviting me.

You are ridiculously lucky to be graduating from this bastion of excellence and on these beautiful acres. And if the goddesses and gods of the universe do the right thing, then you will also very soon be the proud alumnae of the college that produced America’s first female president! Go Hillary!

I’m truly, truly happy to be here today, so happy, in fact, that when I found out your class color was yellow, I decided I would wear yellow eye shadow. But on second thoughts, I realized that as much as I admire Wellesley, even yellow eye-shadow was a bit too much of a gesture. So I dug out this yellow – yellowish – headwrap instead.

Speaking of eye shadow, I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my twenties, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man. He was one of the guests at a friend’s dinner party. I was also a guest. I was about 23, but people often told me I looked 12. The conversation at dinner was about traditional Igbo culture, about the custom that allows only men to break the kola nut, and the kola nut is a deeply symbolic part of Igbo cosmology.

I argued that it would be better if that honor were based on achievement rather than gender, and he looked at me and said, dismissively, “You don’t know what you are talking about, you’re a small girl.”

I wanted him to disagree with the substance of my argument, but by looking at me, young and female, it was easy for him to dismiss what I said. So I decided to try to look older.

So I thought lipstick might help. And eyeliner.

And I am grateful to that man because I have since come to love makeup, and its wonderful possibilities for temporary transformation.

So, I have not told you this anecdote as a way to illustrate my discovery of gender injustice. If anything, it’s really just an ode to makeup.

It’s really just to say that this, your graduation, is a good time to buy some lipsticks – if makeup is your sort of thing – because a good shade of lipstick can always put you in a slightly better mood on dark days.

It’s not about my discovering gender injustice because of course I had discovered years before then. From childhood. From watching the world.

I already knew that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men.

I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better.

And I knew that men were not inherently bad or evil. They were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.

I knew from this personal experience, from the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family, that it sometimes blinded me, that I was not always as alert to the nuances of people who were different from me.

And you, because you now have your beautiful Wellesley degree, have become privileged, no matter what your background. That degree, and the experience of being here, is a privilege. Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.


I bring greetings to you from my mother. She’s a big admirer of Wellesley, and she wishes she could be here. She called me yesterday to ask how the speech-writing was going and to tell me to remember to use a lot of lotion on my legs today so they would not look ashy.

My mother is 73 and she retired as the first female registrar of the University of Nigeria – which was quite a big deal at the time.

My mother likes to tell a story of the first university meeting she chaired. It was in a large conference room, and at the head of the table was a sign that said CHAIRMAN. My mother was about to get seated there when a clerk came over and made to remove the sign. All the past meetings had of course been chaired by men, and somebody had forgotten to replace the CHAIRMAN with a new sign that said CHAIRPERSON. The clerk apologized and told her he would find the new sign, since she was not a chairman.

My mother said no. Actually, she said, she WAS a chairman. She wanted the sign left exactly where it was. The meeting was about to begin. She didn’t want anybody to think that what she was doing in that meeting at that time on that day was in any way different from what a CHAIRMAN would have done.

I always liked this story, and admired what I thought of as my mother’s fiercely feminist choice. I once told the story to a friend, a card carrying feminist, and I expected her to say bravo to my mother, but she was troubled by it.

“Why would your mother want to be called a chairman, as though she needed the MAN part to validate her?” my friend asked.

In some ways, I saw my friend’s point.

Because if there were a Standard Handbook published annually by the Secret Society of Certified Feminists, then that handbook would certainly say that a woman should not be called, nor want to be called, a CHAIRMAN.

But gender is always about context and circumstance.

If there is a lesson in this anecdote, apart from just telling you a story about my mother to make her happy that I spoke about her at Wellesley, then it is this: Your standardized ideologies will not always fit your life. Because life is messy.


When I was growing up in Nigeria I was expected, as every student who did well was expected, to become a doctor. Deep down I knew that what I really wanted to do was to write stories. But I did what I was supposed to do and I went into medical school.

I told myself that I would tough it out and become a psychiatrist and that way I could use my patients’ stories for my fiction.

But after one year of medical school I fled. I realized I would be a very unhappy doctor and I really did not want to be responsible for the inadvertent death of my patients. Leaving medical school was a very unusual decision, especially in Nigeria where it is very difficult to get into medical school.

Later, people told me that it had been very courageous of me, but I did not feel courageous at all.

What I felt then was not courage but a desire to make an effort. To try. I could either stay and study something that was not right for me. Or I could try and do something different. I decided to try. I took the American exams and got a scholarship to come to the US where I could study something else that was NOT related to medicine. Now it might not have worked out. I might not have been given an American scholarship.

My writing might not have ended up being successful. But the point is that I tried.

We can not always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort. And you are privileged that, because of your education here, you have already been given many of the tools that you will need to try. Always just try. Because you never know.

And so as you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in.

Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.

Wellesley will open doors for you. Walk through those doors and make your strides long and firm and sure.

Write television shows in which female strength is not depicted as remarkable but merely normal.

Teach your students to see that vulnerability is a HUMAN rather than a FEMALE trait.

Commission magazine articles that teach men HOW TO KEEP A WOMAN HAPPY. Because there are already too many articles that tell women how to keep a man happy. And in media interviews make sure fathers are asked how they balance family and work. In this age of ‘parenting as guilt,’ please spread the guilt equally. Make fathers feel as bad as mothers. Make fathers share in the glory of guilt.

Campaign and agitate for paid paternity leave everywhere in America.

Hire more women where there are few. But remember that a woman you hire doesn’t have to be exceptionally good. Like a majority of the men who get hired, she just needs to be good enough.


Recently a feminist organization kindly nominated me for an important prize in a country that will remain unnamed. I was very pleased. I’ve been fortunate to have received a few prizes so far and I quite like them especially when they come with shiny presents. To get this prize, I was required to talk about how important a particular European feminist woman writer had been to me. Now the truth was that I had never managed to finish this feminist writer’s book. It did not speak to me. It would have been a lie to claim that she had any major influence on my thinking. The truth is that I learned so much more about feminism from watching the women traders in the market in Nsukka where I grew up, than from reading any seminal feminist text. I could have said that this woman was important to me, and I could have talked the talk, and I could have been given the prize and a shiny present.

But I didn’t.

Because I had begun to ask myself what it really means to wear this FEMINIST label so publicly.

Just as I asked myself after excerpts of my feminism speech were used in a song by a talented musician whom I think some of you might know. I thought it was a very good thing that the word ‘feminist’ would be introduced to a new generation.

But I was startled by how many people, many of whom were academics, saw something troubling, even menacing, in this.

It was as though feminism was supposed to be an elite little cult, with esoteric rites of membership.

But it shouldn’t. Feminism should be an inclusive party. Feminism should be a party full of different feminisms.

And so, class of 2015, please go out there and make Feminism a big raucous inclusive party.


The past three weeks have been the most emotionally difficult of my life. My father is 83 years old, a retired professor of statistics, a lovely kind man. I am an absolute Daddy’s girl. Three weeks ago, he was kidnapped near his home in Nigeria. And for a number of days, my family and I went through the kind of emotional pain that I have never known in my life. We were talking to threatening strangers on the phone, begging and negotiating for my father’s safety and we were not always sure if my father was alive. He was released after we paid a ransom. He is well, in fairly good shape and in his usual lovely way, is very keen to reassure us all that he is fine.

I am still not sleeping well, I still wake up many times at night, in panic, worried that something else has gone wrong, I still cannot look at my father without fighting tears, without feeling this profound relief and gratitude that he is safe, but also rage that he had to undergo such an indignity to his body and to his spirit.

And the experience has made me re-think many things, what truly matters, and what doesn’t. What I value, and what I don’t.

And as you graduate today, I urge you to think about that a little more. Think about what really matters to you. Think about what you WANT to really matter to you.

I read about your rather lovely tradition of referring to older students as “big sisters” and younger ones as “little sisters.” And I read about the rather strange thing about being thrown into the pond – and I didn’t really get that – but I would very much like to be your honorary big sister today.

Which means that I would like to give you bits of advice as your big sister:

All over the world, girls are raised to be make themselves likeable, to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people.

Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.

I am lucky that my writing has given me a platform that I choose to use to talk about things that I care about, and

I have said a few things that have not been so popular with a number of people. I have been told to shut up about certain things – such as my position on the equal rights of gay people on the continent of Africa, such as my deeply held belief that men and women are completely equal. I don’t speak to provoke. I speak because I think our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we are wasting our time on earth.

I don’t mean to sound precious but please don’t waste your time on earth, but there is one exception. The only acceptable way of wasting your time on earth is online shopping.

Okay, one last thing about my mother. My mother and I do not agree on many things regarding gender. There are certain things my mother believes a person should do, for the simple reason that said person ‘is a woman.’ Such as nod occasionally and smile even when smiling is the last thing one wants to do. Such as strategically give in to certain arguments, especially when arguing with a non-female. Such as get married and have children. I can think of fairly good reasons for doing any of these. But ‘because you are a woman’ is not one of them. And so, Class of 2015, never ever accept ‘Because You Are A Woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.

And, finally I would like to end with a final note on the most important thing in the world: love.

Now girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give AND to take.

Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence.

Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 2015 Wellesley College Commencement Speakerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcehZ3CjedU

Khizr Khan

Khizr Khan (1950– ), the father of a Muslim US soldier slain in Iraq in 2004, became a United States citizen after emigrating from Pakistan in 1980. Captain Khan, 27, died on 8 June 2004, after he told his men to take cover and then tried to stop a suicide bomber outside the gates of his base in Baquba. The car detonated before it could reach the gates or the nearby mess hall where hundreds of soldiers were eating breakfast. Khan was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

Speech at Democratic National Convention (2016)

28-Jul-2016. Khizr Khan gave a moving speech that simultaneously conveyed a father’s love for his lost child and pride in his country.

Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings. We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America’.

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership.

He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.

Khizr Khan
“I will gladly lend you my copy.”

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.

In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly. This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.

And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.

Khizr Khan’s DNC 2016 speechhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/dnc-2016-khizr-khan-donald-trump-read-full-transcript-father-muslim-soldier-a7161616.html

Stephen Spielberg

As a director, writer, and producer, Stephen Spielberg (1946– ) has created some of the most enduring movies of the last half-century, his creations ranging from the blockbuster suspense of Jaws to the magical sweetness of E.T. to the all-too-human inhumanity of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. He addressed the newly minted graduates, family members, and alumni during the Afternoon Program in the outdoor Tercentenary Theatre.

In his speech, Spielberg shared some of his own history. He dropped out of college as a sophomore to take a dream job at a movie studio. Though that “went all right,” as he described it, he returned to campus in his 50s to finish his degree. He did that for his children’s sake, to “walk the walk” that education is important. He said he was able to get away with his early collegiate exit because he had been blessed with knowing what he wanted to do with his life, something not true for many young people.

Spielberg called the choice of the initial path to tread the first “character-defining moment” for the new graduates, and said that although characters in a movie usually face only a handful of such moments, real life is full of them. He urged the graduates to listen not to the internal voice that loudly tells them what they should do, but the quieter one that tells them what they could do. It was that voice, he said, that pulled him toward key projects that propelled his career in a more serious direction that was unexpected after his string of early crowd-pleasing blockbusters.

He said it was when he directed The Color Purple that he became familiar with the pain – and the truths – of the lives of black women in the 1930s Deep South. The film, he said, showed him that a movie could be a mission.

He said he hoped that the graduates would work to find the same sense of personal mission, and he urged them to understand history – to not be “a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree” – even though social media is constantly focusing people’s attention to devices, to right now. He urged his listeners to make personal connections, to not just stick to their values, but act on them.

Spielberg: Find a ‘villain to vanquish’https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/05/spielberg-find-a-villain-to-vanquish/

Commencement Speech at Havard University (2016)

In a wide-ranging and “unapologetically sentimental” Commencement Speech, filmmaker Steven Spielberg reflected on his own career in cinema and challenged Harvard’s most recent graduates to follow their intuition, find someone to love, and fight hatred through human connection. Spielberg also called on graduates to avoid falling prey to overwhelming “voices of authority.”.

Spielberg opened his address by congratulating the recent graduates gathered in Tercentenary Theatre and recalling his own long-delayed graduation: he dropped out of college in 1968, before completing his degree more than 30 years later.

Decrying the proliferation of phone and computer screens, Spielberg then encouraged everyone in the audience to turn to someone new and make eye contact, drawing nervous laughter and a few handshakes.

Continuing the theme of connection, Spielberg encouraged the Class of 2016 to fall in love and hold onto friendships. He criticized hatred, calling for the “villains” of the world to be vanquished with “more humanity.”


Thank you, thank you, President Faust, and Paul Choi, thank you so much.

It’s an honor and a thrill to address this group of distinguished alumni and supportive friends and kvelling parents. We’ve all gathered to share in the joy of this day, so please join me in congratulating Harvard’s Class of 2016.

Steven Spielberg_Commencement Speech Harvard

I can remember my own college graduation, which is easy, since it was only 14 years ago. How many of you took 37 years to graduate? Because, like most of you, I began college in my teens, but sophomore year, I was offered my dream job at Universal Studios, so I dropped out. I told my parents if my movie career didn’t go well, I’d re-enroll.

It went all right.

But eventually, I returned for one big reason. Most people go to college for an education, and some go for their parents, but I went for my kids. I’m the father of seven, and I kept insisting on the importance of going to college, but I hadn’t walked the walk. So, in my fifties, I re-enrolled at Cal State – Long Beach, and I earned my degree.

I just have to add: It helped that they gave me course credit in paleontology for the work I did on Jurassic Park. That’s three units for Jurassic Park, thank you.

Well I left college because I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and some of you know, too – but some of you don’t. Or maybe you thought you knew but are now questioning that choice. Maybe you’re sitting there trying to figure out how to tell your parents that you want to be a doctor and not a comedy writer.

Well, what you choose to do next is what we call in the movies the ‘character-defining moment.’ Now, these are moments you’re very familiar with, like in the last Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when Rey realizes the force is with her. Or Indiana Jones choosing mission over fear by jumping over a pile of snakes.

Now in a two-hour movie, you get a handful of character-defining moments, but in real life, you face them every day. Life is one strong, long string of character-defining moments. And I was lucky that at 18 I knew what I exactly wanted to do. But I didn’t know who I was. How could I? And how could any of us? Because for the first 25 years of our lives, we are trained to listen to voices that are not our own. Parents and professors fill our heads with wisdom and information, and then employers and mentors take their place and explain how this world really works.

And usually these voices of authority make sense, but sometimes, doubt starts to creep into our heads and into our hearts. And even when we think, ‘that’s not quite how I see the world,’ it’s kind of easier to just to nod in agreement and go along, and for a while, I let that going along define my character. Because I was repressing my own point of view, because like in that Nilsson song, ‘Everybody was talkin’ at me, so I couldn’t hear the echoes of my mind.’

And at first, the internal voice I needed to listen to was hardly audible, and it was hardly noticeable – kind of like me in high school. But then I started paying more attention, and my intuition kicked in.

And I want to be clear that your intuition is different from your conscience. They work in tandem, but here’s the distinction: Your conscience shouts, ‘here’s what you should do,’ while your intuition whispers, ‘here’s what you could do.’ Listen to that voice that tells you what you could do. Nothing will define your character more than that.

Because once I turned to my intuition, and I tuned into it, certain projects began to pull me into them, and others, I turned away from.

And up until the 1980s, my movies were mostly, I guess what you could call ‘escapist.’ And I don’t dismiss any of these movies – not even 1941. Not even that one. And many of these early films reflected the values that I cared deeply about, and I still do. But I was in a celluloid bubble, because I’d cut my education short, my worldview was limited to what I could dream up in my head, not what the world could teach me.

But then I directed The Color Purple. And this one film opened my eyes to experiences that I never could have imagined, and yet were all too real. This story was filled with deep pain and deeper truths, like when Shug Avery says, ‘Everything wants to be loved.’ My gut, which was my intuition, told me that more people needed to meet these characters and experience these truths. And while making that film, I realized that a movie could also be a mission.

I hope all of you find that sense of mission. Don’t turn away from what’s painful. Examine it. Challenge it.

My job is to create a world that lasts two hours. Your job is to create a world that lasts forever. You are the future innovators, motivators, leaders and caretakers.

And the way you create a better future is by studying the past. Jurassic Park writer Michael Crichton, who graduated from both this college and this medical school, liked to quote a favorite professor of his who said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree. So history majors: Good choice, you’re in great shape…Not in the job market, but culturally.

The rest of us have to make a little effort. Social media that we’re inundated and swarmed with is about the here and now. But I’ve been fighting and fighting inside my own family to get all my kids to look behind them, to look at what already has happened. Because to understand who they are is to understand who were were, and who their grandparents were, and then, what this country was like when they emigrated here. We are a nation of immigrants – at least for now.

So to me, this means we all have to tell our own stories. We have so many stories to tell. Talk to your parents and your grandparents, if you can, and ask them about their stories. And I promise you, like I have promised my kids, you will not be bored.

And that’s why I so often make movies based on real-life events. I look to history not to be didactic, ‘cause that’s just a bonus, but I look because the past is filled with the greatest stories that have ever been told. Heroes and villains are not literary constructs, but they’re at the heart of all history.

And again, this is why it’s so important to listen to your internal whisper. It’s the same one that compelled Abraham Lincoln and Oskar Schindler to make the correct moral choices. In your defining moments, do not let your morals be swayed by convenience or expediency. Sticking to your character requires a lot of courage. And to be courageous, you’re going to need a lot of support.

And if you’re lucky, you have parents like mine. I consider my mom my lucky charm. And when I was 12 years old, my father handed me a movie camera, the tool that allowed me to make sense of this world. And I am so grateful to him for that. And I am grateful that he’s here at Harvard, sitting right down there.

My dad is 99 years old, which means he’s only one year younger than Widener Library. But unlike Widener, he’s had zero cosmetic work. And dad, there’s a lady behind you, also 99, and I’ll introduce you after this is over, okay?

But look, if your family’s not always available, there’s backup. Near the end of It’s a Wonderful Life – you remember that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life? Clarence the Angel inscribes a book with this: “No man is a failure who has friends.” And I hope you hang on to the friendships you’ve made here at Harvard. And among your friends, I hope you find someone you want to share your life with. I imagine some of you in this yard may be a tad cynical, but I want to be unapologetically sentimental. I spoke about the importance of intuition and how there’s no greater voice to follow. That is, until you meet the love of your life. And this is what happened when I met and married Kate, and that became the greatest character-defining moment of my life.

Love, support, courage, intuition. All of these things are in your hero’s quiver, but still, a hero needs one more thing: A hero needs a villain to vanquish. And you’re all in luck. This world is full of monsters. And there’s racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred, there’s political hatred, and there’s religious hatred.

As a kid, I was bullied – for being Jewish. This was upsetting, but compared to what my parents and grandparents had faced, it felt tame. Because we truly believed that anti-Semitism was fading. And we were wrong. Over the last two years, nearly 20,000 Jews have left Europe to find higher ground. And earlier this year, I was at the Israeli embassy when President Obama stated the sad truth. He said: ‘We must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it.’

My own desire to confront that reality compelled me to start, in 1994, the Shoah Foundation. And since then, we’ve spoken to over 53,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses in 63 countries and taken all their video testimonies. And we’re now gathering testimonies from genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia and Nanking. Because we must never forget that the inconceivable doesn’t happen – it happens frequently. Atrocities are happening right now. And so we wonder not just, ‘When will this hatred end?’ but, ‘How did it begin?’

Now, I don’t have to tell a crowd of Red Sox fans that we are wired for tribalism. But beyond rooting for the home team, tribalism has a much darker side. Instinctively and maybe even genetically, we divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ So the burning question must be: How do all of us together find the ‘we?’ How do we do that? There’s still so much work to be done, and sometimes I feel the work hasn’t even begun. And it’s not just anti-Semitism that’s surging – Islamophobia’s on the rise, too. Because there’s no difference between anyone who is discriminated against, whether it’s the Muslims, or the Jews, or minorities on the border states, or the LGBT community – it is all big one hate.

And to me, and, I think, to all of you, the only answer to more hate is more humanity. We gotta repair – we have to replace fear with curiosity. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ – we’ll find the ‘we’ by connecting with each other. And by believing that we’re members of the same tribe. And by feeling empathy for every soul – even Yalies.

My son graduated from Yale, thank you…

But make sure this empathy isn’t just something that you feel. Make it something you act upon. That means vote. Peaceably protest. Speak up for those who can’t and speak up for those who may be shouting but aren’t being hard. Let your conscience shout as loud as it wants if you’re using it in the service of others.

And as an example of action in service of others, you need to look no further than this Hollywood-worthy backdrop of Memorial Church. Its south wall bears the names of Harvard alumni – like President Faust has already mentioned – students and faculty members, who gave their lives in World War II. All told, 697 souls, who once tread the ground where stand now, were lost. And at a service in this church in late 1945, Harvard President James Conant – which President Faust also mentioned – honored the brave and called upon the community to ‘reflect the radiance of their deeds.’

Seventy years later, this message still holds true. Because their sacrifice is not a debt that can be repaid in a single generation. It must be repaid with every generation. Just as we must never forget the atrocities, we must never forget those who fought for freedom. So as you leave this college and head out into the world, continue please to ‘reflect the radiance of their deeds,’ or as Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan would say, “Earn this.”

And please stay connected. Please never lose eye contact. This may not be a lesson you want to hear from a person who creates media, but we are spending more time looking down at our devices than we are looking in each other’s eyes. So, forgive me, but let’s start right now. Everyone here, please find someone’s eyes to look into. Students, and alumni and you too, President Faust, all of you, turn to someone you don’t know or don’t know very well. They may be standing behind you, or a couple of rows ahead. Just let your eyes meet. That’s it. That emotion you’re feeling is our shared humanity mixed in with a little social discomfort.

But, if you remember nothing else from today, I hope you remember this moment of human connection. And I hope you all had a lot of that over the past four years. Because today you start down the path of becoming the generation on which the next generation stands. And I’ve imagined many possible futures in my films, but you will determine the actual future. And I hope that it’s filled with justice and peace.

And finally, I wish you all a true, Hollywood-style happy ending. I hope you outrun the T. rex, catch the criminal and for your parents’ sake, maybe every now and then, just like E.T.: Go home. Thank you.

Steven Spielberg Commencement Speech, Harvard University, May 2016 (Transcript)https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276561

Emma Gonzalez

On 14 February 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. Witnesses identified Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the school, as the assailant. The killing spree is the deadliest high school shooting in United States history. It came at a period of heightened public support for gun control that followed mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas, in October and November 2017.

Following the massacre, the anger and frustration of Parkland student survivors intensified towards the perceived inaction of the Republican-dominated legislature on the wider issue of mass shootings and gun violence.

Emma González (1999– ) is an American activist and advocate for gun control. As a high school senior she survived the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and in response co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD.

Emma Gonzalez addressed a gun control rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, days after a gunman entered her school in nearby Parkland and killed 17 people.

“We call BS” (2018)

There were so many great speeches from the Parkland students but this one was so raw and so contemporaneous that it swept the world. The writing is superb, the gun lobby arguments passionately and systematically torn apart. She has a rallying cry. She marches on through tears and trauma. Speakola’s vote for 2018’s best speech, and followed up with something similarly impressive at March for Our Lives.


18 February 2018, Parkland, Florida, USA

We haven’t already had a moment of silence in the House of Representatives, so I would like to have another one. Thank you.

Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.

We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. In Florida, to buy a gun you do not need a permit, you do not need a gun license, and once you buy it you do not need to register it. You do not need a permit to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

I read something very powerful to me today. It was from the point of view of a teacher. And I quote: When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student’s right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.

Instead of worrying about our AP Gov chapter 16 test, we have to be studying our notes to make sure that our arguments based on politics and political history are watertight. The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in the closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone.

I found out today there’s a website shootingtracker.com. Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA’s shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn’t had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.

I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we’ve had our say with the government – and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.

We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.

And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student’s fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn’t take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I’m talking about the people he lived with. I’m talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.

If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

You want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.

Crowd chants, shame on you.

If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once? You know what would be a good way to act like it? I have an example of how to not act like it. In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don’t really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don’t need a psychologist and I don’t need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.’ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

(Crowd chants) Throw them out.

Florida student Emma Gonzalez to lawmakers and gun advocates: ‘We call BS’https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/17/us/florida-student-emma-gonzalez-speech/index.html

References and Bibliography

Essence – 40 Best Commencement Speecheshttps://www.essence.com/news/40-best-commencement-speeches/

Interactive Voices, Inc. – http://www.voices.com/resources/articles/tv/top-ten-presidential-speeches

Lowne, C. (ed.) 2005). Speeches that changed the world. Bounty Books, London, U.K.

MSN News, Best speeches of all time: Wise words from Martin Luther King Jr. and morehttp://news.msn.com/us/best-speeches-of-all-time-wise-words-from-martin-luther-king-jr-and-more#image=1

OnlineUniversities – 50 Incredible, Historical Speeches You Should Watch Online – https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/04/50-incredible-historical-speeches/

The Art of Manliness – The 35 Greatest Speeches in History. https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/the-35-greatest-speeches-in-history/

The History Place – The History Place great speeches collection, http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/previous.htm

The TelegraphTop 25 political speeches of all time, Ranks 12-1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/2448979/Top-25-political-speeches-of-all-time-12-1.html

The TelegraphTop 25 political speeches of all time, Ranks 25-13. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/2446609/Top-25-political-speeches-of-all-time-25-13.html

Time MagazineTop 10 Greatest Speeches. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1841228,00.html

TopTenz.net – Top 10 Greatest Speeches. http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-greatest-speeches.php

Wikipedia – List of speeches. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_speeches

Compiled by: Diep Minh Tam

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