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Starting a Business

Melinda Gates on the Power of Technology in Making Human Connections

Melinda Gates on the Power of Technology in Making Human Connections
Image credit:
Melinda Gates, speaking at Duke University's 2013 Commencement ceremony.
Entrepreneur Staff
Special Projects Director and Founder of This Dog's Life
3 min read

Returning to her alma mater, social entrepreneur and philanthropist Melinda Gates delivered the commencement speech to Duke University's class of 2013 yesterday.

In her speech, Gates spoke about connection. While the world is so focused on connecting through technology, Gates reminded graduates about the importance of the human connection. She encouraged the audience to intertwine the two to make the world a better place. Words that she has lived by.

After graduating from Duke University in 1987, Gates went on to work at Microsoft where she focused on multimedia projects. Later on, after marrying Bill Gates, she left the corporation to help found the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization that integrates technology with its mission of improving healthcare, education and poverty.

Whether you aspire to go down a similar path as Gates or choose a different entrepreneurial endeavor, here is her advice for making a difference in the world by connecting:

Use technology as a platform for inspiration.
Technology is just a tool. It's a powerful tool, but it's just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It's not a tool. It's not a means to an end. It is the end -- the purpose and the result of a meaningful life -- and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity and humanity.

If you make the moral choice to connect deeply to others, then your computer, your phone and your tablet will make it so much easier to do. I want you to connect, because I believe it will inspire you to do something, to make a difference in the world.

Related: Obama's 3 Tips for Young Entrepreneurs on How to Live the American Dream

Look at others as the same as you, not different.
You can choose to see their humanity first -- the one big thing that makes them the same as you, instead of the many things that make them different from you.

Adjectives like rich and poor don't define who any of us truly are as human beings. And they don't make any one individual less human than the next. The universe is like computer code in that way: binary. There is life, and there is everything else -- zeroes and ones. I'm a one; you're a one.

If you can believe that all seven billion people on the planet are equal to you in spirit, then you will take action to make the world more equal for everyone.

Related: Oprah Winfrey's 3 Steps for Success

When making choices, focus on ethics.
In his famous speech "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet, we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood."

With 50 years of hindsight, I think it's fair to say Dr. King was premature in calling the world a neighborhood. I believe we are finally creating the scientific and technological tools to turn the world into a neighborhood. And that gives you an amazing ethical opportunity no one has ever had before.

I hope you will use the tool of technology to do what you already had it in your heart to do: To connect and to make this world a brotherhood and a sisterhood.

This is an edited excerpt from Melinda Gates' 2013 commencement address. For the full, unedited speech, watch below.

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