I’m enjoying my 35th reunion with the Harvard College Class of 1972. Yesterday we heard Bill Gates address the Harvard Alumni Association. The photo is of Widener Library in Harvard Yard after the Gates speech, which I found remarkably human and inspiring. I haven’t been able to find audio of it on the Internet, but here is a transcript. And here is an example of how directly Gates challenged the assembly:
Members of the Harvard Family: Here in the Yard is one of the great collections of intellectual talent in the world.
There is no question that the faculty, the alumni, the students, and the benefactors of Harvard have used their power to improve the lives of people here and around the world. But can we do more? Can Harvard dedicate its intellect to improving the lives of people who will never even hear its name?
Let me make a request of the deans and the professors – the intellectual leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:
Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?
Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty … the prevalence of world hunger … the scarcity of clean water …the girls kept out of school … the children who die from diseases we can cure?
Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged?
Today we attended seminars and had lunch and dinner. At the memorial service, the Rev. Peter Gomes introduced the reading of the names of departed classmates by gently reminding us that this process will continue until the last classmate’s name is read–a sombre but oddly comforting thought, I found.