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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.

The next day, I visited a different clinic in Haiti. The clinic was there for the same reason as Paul's -- to provide poor people with the medical care they desperately need but cannot afford. The doctors worked there for all the right reasons. But I noticed that the patients were waiting outside in the scorching sun. Inside, it felt like the doctors considered themselves health providers, and the patients were recipients. There was no sense, as there was in Paul's clinic, of an equal partnership with the community.

Experiencing those two clinics one right after the other showed me that Paul made a moral choice to do the hard work of deep connection. He took the time to do the little things: provide shade, remember surnames, and make eye contact. These small acts were born of a big idea -- the boundless dignity of all people.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTION

Of course, not everybody is Paul Farmer. Not everybody is going to dedicate their whole life to connecting with the poorest people in the world. But just because you don't qualify for sainthood doesn't mean you can't form deep human connections -- or that your connections can't make a difference in the world.

That's where technology comes in. If you make the moral choice to connect deeply to others, then your computer, your phone, and your tablet make it so much easier to do.

Today, there are 700 million cell phone subscribers in Africa. I travelled to Kenya recently and spent a day in Kibera, which many people consider the largest slum in Africa. One image that sticks with me is all the cell phones piled up in a small kiosk where locals paid to recharge their batteries. Most people in Kibera don't have electricity -- even the cell phone charging businesses steal it from the city's power grid -- but everywhere I looked young people were on their phones. And guess what they were doing? Exactly what you do ... they were texting.

You and they can share your stories directly with each other, with literally billions of people, because you're all using the same technology.

On the Internet, you can also immerse yourselves in one another's lives -- read what the other is reading, listen to what the other is listening to, and watch what the other is watching. You can learn their language, and they can learn yours. You can find out how to cook one another's recipes. And then you can photograph the final product and post it on Facebook!

Nobody expects you to wake up tomorrow and randomly Skype someone in Nairobi. And sometimes it's wise to ignore emails from strangers in Nigeria offering to split a large fortune with you!

 

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