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Melinda Gates tells Duke grads: It's all about your real connections

Network World Staff | May 15, 2013
Transcript of technologist/philanthropist Melinda Gates' commencement address to Duke University graduates.

DURHAM, N.C. -- President Brodhead, trustees, members of the Duke University Community, thank you for inviting me to come back to my alma mater for this important occasion. I am grateful for the honorary degree, and moved by the opportunity to address the graduating seniors.

To the Class of 2013: Let me start by saying congratulations ...

... and by reminding you to thank your mothers and wish them a happy Mothers' Day ...

... and by admitting that I'm still bitter about the Louisville game.

I was a student here in 1986 when Coach K took the team to the finals for the first time. We lost to Louisville then, too, so you and I share that particular agony.

However, you had the good fortune to be here on campus when Duke won its fourth national championship.

I never got to see us cut down the nets, but I did see us beat UNC, in Chapel Hill, when Michael Jordan was the star of the team.

The fact that Michael Jordan recently turned 50 years old tells you how long it's been since I was a student.

No matter how much time passes, though, I always feel connected to Duke. I love visiting my favorite landmarks, especially the Duke Gardens, where I used to go when I was stressed out before exams and needed to clear my head. I went yesterday, because I wanted to make sure I was centered before giving this speech.

There's also my feeling of deep connection to the community my classmates created during our four years, and to the lifelong friends I made here -- in short, to the people. I doubt there is a word that captures the combination of experiences and places and people that we summarize under the label "Duke." The best one I can think of is "connected." And this is a word I'd like to talk about for a few minutes on your Commencement Day.

In August 1982, I left my home in Dallas, Texas, to come here to Durham. To mark this rite of passage, my parents gave me a terrific present: the cutting-edge Olympus B12 portable typewriter, with a carrying case included. One of its best features was how light it was: Amazingly, the whole bundle weighed just 12 pounds!

It was during my time at Duke that the personal computer displaced the typewriter as the technology of choice on campus. Those of us in the computer science department actually resented the change. There were so few computers available, and all of a sudden the humanities majors were hogging our machines to write their papers.

We had to do our programming in the middle of the night, usually in the creepy basement of the old biological science building. We'd set up contests -- who programmed the fastest or made the fewest mistakes -- kind of like a prehistoric hack-a-thon. The punishment for the losers was a trip to the biology lab at the end of the hall, where they had to touch the scariest mutant frog specimens.


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