June 7, 2007 2:54 PM PDT

Gates to Harvard grads: Pay it forward

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--The richest man in the world can now also claim a degree from the college he dropped out of three decades ago.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivered the commencement address at Harvard University here Thursday, and was awarded the L.L.D. honorary doctorate bestowed upon Harvard's commencement speakers.

"Our speaker is known as the most influential entrepreneur of the personal computer revolution. He was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004, 2005, 2006 and again in 2007," said Harvard's interim president, Derek Bok, who presided over the ceremony. Bok then spoke more directly to Gates: "Just think what you could have achieved if you had stayed another two years."

Even though the school has said that it considers him to be a member of the Harvard College Class of 1977, Gates dropped out of Harvard as a junior in 1975 to run Microsoft full time and never got his bachelor's degree.

Gates told the students, many of whom will soon be launching into full-time careers, that work isn't the only thing of significance.

Gates at Harvard

"Judge yourself not on the professional accomplishments but on how well you have addressed the world's inequities, how you have treated people who have nothing to do with you other than a shared humanity," he said.

In recent months, Gates has been giving a larger portion of his time and energy to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on issues including global health and education. In 2008, he plans to make the foundation his chief responsibility.

"I'll be changing my job next year, and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my resume," he joked.

But for the most part, the Microsoft co-founder stuck to the serious message about trying to make the world a better place. He urged the graduates not to get discouraged about seemingly intractable challenges of poverty and poor health.

"It's difficult to look at suffering when the solution to the problem is so complex, so we look away," he said. "I love getting people excited about software, but why can't we get people excited about saving lives?"

Inequity has been around forever, Gates said, "but the new tools we have to cut through the complexity have not been with us forever. The personal computer and the Internet give us the chance to end extreme poverty."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is a degreed Harvard '77 alumnus and who lived in the same dorm with Gates their freshman year, was also in attendance on the stage, as was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times op-ed columnist Nick Kristof, '82, who was celebrating his 25th reunion.

In 1996, Gates and Ballmer together donated $25 million to Harvard for Maxwell Dworkin, a computer science building bearing their mothers' maiden names.

"I also want to be recognized as the one who got Steve Ballmer to drop out of business school," Gates joshed.

As many as 30,000 people were expected to attend the outdoor commencement ceremony.

Gates wasn't the only high-profile speaker on the Cambridge campus this week. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton delivered Harvard's Class Day speech. Gates and Clinton have collaborated on philanthropic efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic in developing countries.

Recent past Harvard commencement speakers have included journalist Jim Lehrer in 2006, actor and writer John Lithgow in 2005 and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004.

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Pay it forward to the pharmaceutical corporations
You have to wonder about Gate's sincerity when he hires Dr. Tadataka Yamada as director of global health programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Yamada is a pharmaceutical corporate insider whose former job duties, as chief of research and development for GlaxoSmithKline, included intimidating and retaliating against scientists who criticized Glaxo's diabetes drug Avandia, despite the fact that Avandia increased the risks of heart attacks.
Posted by Xenu7-214951314497503184010868 (153 comments )
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First I will assume you have never intimidated any one in any way and therefore you are completely innocent of the crime you accuse Mr. Gates (or is it formally Dr. now?)?

And second, I guess you have donated half your net worth to charity, investigated the background of every person hired with that money, ensured that no laws, morals or virtues are broken with that money, and that is what gives you the right to criticize?

Scrutiny is necessary, but questioning character from one fact is inexcusable ignorance.
Posted by greaterthan (5 comments )
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Editorial intervention?
Why were the previous comments to this post deleted?
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
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It wasnt just these comments...
I was actually reading the "comments" (which, by the way, led to other comments within related stories) the other day. And, while I was reading them... they started disappearing. First, they were there, but while I was actually reading, and re-reading them (or when I tried to refresh the pages), they began disappearing (and producing -404- errors). And, as far as I can tell they have not come back.

The initial "comments" were extreme, but relatively-civil, criticisms of "Microsoft", and included a litany of Microsofts (and, thereby, "Bill Gates") decades of abuses against consumers, other companies, and complaints about the numerous laws broken by Microsoft, as a company. These, initial, Microsoft-critical "posts" were met with rapid-flurry of extremely vehement, nasty, even childish, personal-attacks against the original-poster (apparently, simply because he dared to, publicly, point-out these well-established, though clearly unflattering, facts regarding "Microsoft").

Frankly, I think that Microsofts, and its SHILLS and defenders, latest apparent tactic (massive numbers of instantaneous, vicious, personal-attacks) against the overwhelming numbers of Microsoft-critics... is indicative of exactly how desperate Microsoft has become. Microsofts stock is flat (after massive investments and lavish product-introductions), ...their products are being rejected, wholesale, and are being condemned by almost everybody. And, Microsofts established, rather totalitarian, anti-consumer policies, ...as well as their long-term, unethical, and often criminal, activities ...have alienated virtually all of the IT, and consumer, eco-systems. More, and more, people ARE looking for alternatives. And, despite a few hardcore-defenders inane, or simply vicious, counter-attacks... the long-term prospects for Microsoft really do look abysmal from most perspectives. They [Microsoft] have not, and apparently CANNOT, actually -change- (despite spin-campaign, after spin-campaign, after spin-campaign). And, most people have finally come to realize that we (consumers and IT-professionals) simply should not continue down the dead-end of insecure, poorly-designed and implemented, over-priced, products which are primarily designed to rob everyone of virtually every basic consumer-right... and which, by the way, have only been forced upon us by the entirely unethical, and often criminal, actions of one company.

Its too bad that many -public forums- (such as "C|NET") are apparently responding to such "scare", and "vicious-reprisal", tactics against anyone that posts negative-opinions against Microsoft, by wiping the entire -thread-... instead of merely deleting the "offending posts".

So... I guess that means that fear, rhetoric, and propaganda techniques... really do WIN... in the end.

How sad... At least thats MY opinion (for as long as it lasts).
Posted by Gayle Edwards (262 comments )
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