Steve Ballmer gives UW Commencement Speech

Steve Ballmer gives UW Commencement Speech


resources to the enormous
benefit of our nation and region. In recognition of Mr.
Ballmer’s extraordinary achievements in technology and
business, his inspirational public service, the university
today conferring upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of
Science. The honorary citation will be read by the chairman of
the Board of Regents, Mr. Orrin Smith. Will Mr. Ballmer and Mr.
Smith please join me. [ APPLAUSE ]>>Stephen Anthony Ballmer, you
are the founding father of the information age, one of its
foremost architects, and for over three decades, an
unparalleled force at the heart of its rapid development. Your
vision and drive have brought a new freedom of discovery to
virtually every field of human endeavor and transformed the
world in which we live. Your success began in cool and opened
systems that would lead to your life’s purpose’ you were a
valedictorian of your high school class and graduated
making Noah Magna cum laude from Harvard
University. It was learning that propelled you forward in the
university setting that led you to opportunity. Stephen, you
were also a risk-taker, leaving Stanford university’s graduate
school of business in 1980 to join forces with a former
classmate Bill Gates and a fledgling startup with a very
uncertain future. You had the courage to follow an uncertain
path into an unknown future and the boundless energy to make
such a bold venture succeed. Your leadership was
fundamental to the company whose products, imagination and
enterprise, have radically accelerated the pace of
scientific research and ill illuminated the vast expanse of
creativity and possibility. You guided Microsoft’s exponential
growth with a style and a genuine enthusiasm that ever
inspired those you led. The ecosystem of hardware and
software you envisioned brought success not only to Microsoft,
but thousands of other companies as well. In 2000, you became
the company’s Chief Executive Officer, a position you held for
14 years. Under your leadership, annual revenues more
than tripled and profits soared. Yet, you have always
been and remain a man of the people. Compassionate, without
pretension, and extraordinarily giving. Your civic and
philanthropic contributions are as great as your business and
tech technological achievements.
Your support in healthcare, education, the arts, and
countless charitable organizations has uplifted the
lives and hopes of people around the world. For the
extraordinary success of the company you helped build, for Crafting tools that have
made it possible to vastly extend the frontier of
knowledge, and for all you have given towards the betterment of
society, the University of Washington is proud to confer on
you the degree of Doctor of Science. Congratulations. [
APPLAUSE ] [ APPLAUSE ] [ APPLAUSE ]
>>Thank you, gentlemen.>>>Well, thanks! I’m a little
fired up to be here today! This hat gets in the way! Sorry about
that! I — you never told me in my wildest dreams that I would
be in the end zone at Husky Stadium, lower bowl, 40,000
people! I would have told you no way! So I have exactly two
thoughts for you. One, touchdown Washington! And two, go dogs! [
CHEERS & APPLAUSE ]>>I want to congratulate
everybody who is graduating today. It’s been a little low
key in here for my taste. I want actually all the graduates,
every one of you to get up and give yourself a round of
applause. Congratulations! [ CHEERS & APPLAUSE ]>>Actually for me, you may not
know this. This is a special class, the class of folks
graduating this year are the age of my oldest son, and the
notion that some of his friends are in this audience graduating
today just gives me a little extra special umple, Hank,
Justin, others, you know who you are, but congratulations to all and the surprise of
seeing one of my son’s mothers here, Melissa, congratulations!
Great job! [ APPLAUSE ]
>>Michael and Chris made, I think, a wonderful point.
Neither one of them knows what the heck at age 22 or 30 life
holds for them. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay. This
class is graduating at perhaps the best time in history, a time
— and if you don’t remember anything else from this speech,
this is it. You have the greatest opportunities in front
of you of any class ever to graduate from university. You
have the opportunities to go out and change the world in so many
ways. I’ve had an amazingly fortunate and lucky journey. I
was born at the right time and the right place to be able to
participate in the launching of the information age. And if you
only take the perspective information technology, the
impact you all can have on the world, the world of business,
the world of science, the world of education, the world of
healthcare, there has never been a better time, opportunity,
opportunity, opportunity, it awaits you. It’s there for you!
You have an extra blessing. You’re graduating from one of
the best universities bar none in the entire world. The
University of Washington! [ APPLAUSE ]>>This university is
unbelievable. Mike and I were actually talking up on stage and
some of the various departments, but I certainly
know the medical school here and Dean Ramsey, I’ve gotten
exposure to the school of social work, certainly the computer
science department! Will all the computer science graduates
please stand up! Yeah! [ APPLAUSE ]
>>Let’s give our countless wonderful departments at the
University of Washington and to graduate from here means you
have opportunity sitting in front of you for the taking. I
want to give you three principles to think about as you
look at the opportunities that you have to make a difference.
And it can be a difference in one or two people’s lives, 100
people’s lives, a difference in the world, a difference in arts
or letters or science or business. I’ll give you three
things to think about. First, there’s a Latin expression which
I think is great. I love it. It was in a now very old movie
called The Dead Poets Society. But the line in the movie was
carpe diem. Seize the day. The opportunities are there, but you
got to reach out and pick them up. You got to grab at them.
Some of you may have already done that at the U in your
classes, in other students that you met, in your extracurricular
activities, but grab them. Don’t be afraid to make a
mistake, because you know what you can do if the grab the wrong
one? Drop it and pick up another one! It’s okay. Seize
the day. I think back of all of the luck, but also the times
that were in front of me to seize the day. I don’t know what
got me to drop out of business school and come to Microsoft. My
parents thought I was a whack job. Neither one of them
graduated college and they thought this was really a wild
idea. I was lucky. I seized the day. Microsoft, one day some
guys fly in from IBM and all of a sudden we figure out we could
actually provide all the software they need for this
thing that became the personal computer. People had
the wisdom to seize the day when that opportunity presented
itself. And yet when you think of all the opportunities, when I
think back of all the opportunities I’ve had, had the
one that was most important was an opportunity I got in 1969.
Sitting in my junior high school class, I was in a public junior
high, not very simulated at the time, and over the loud
speaker, they said a private high school in our area that I
had never heard of was giving scholarship tests that weekend.
I told my mother I wanted to take them. She said that’s fine,
as long as you get a scholarship because we can’t
afford to send you there. But that’s really where I got
switched on, switched on in math, switched on personally,
energized in a way that never, never could be turned back. And
I am very thankful for that opportunity. Yes, there’s a lot
of luck in opportunity, but there’s a lot of seizing the
day, and I encourage you all to reach out and carpe diem, really
seize the opportunities that are in front of you. Number two
on opportunity, have a point of view. Sometimes it will be your
point of view that creates opportunity and sometimes you
will pick up an opportunity and it will give you a chance to
build a point of view. If you’re Art Levenson, Paul Allen and
Bill Gates, you may have a point of view on what will happen in
the world of genetics and what can be invented, or the fact
that software would be the most powerful force on the planet and
what it can do to change the world. Points of view do matter.
If you’re like me, you might not have a point of view before
you get started, but I had the privilege then to learn, and all
of you will from somebody, you will develop your own point of
view on how to develop and shape and bring those opportunities
to the floor. One of the favorite stories I have to tell
kids is the story of the guy who founded both Twitter and
Square, guy named Jack Dorsey. I barely know the guy, but I am
in awe of his story. He’s a guy who was writing software to help
taxi cab dispatch in the city of St. Louis. And he discovered
that blowing out small messages was a really powerful force for
taxi cab scheduling and the taxi cab drivers neededded to be
paid. And out of that experience, he developed the
point of view that allowed him to create both Twitter and
Square, now the most popular way that people get paid. So point
of view creates opportunity and you need to be a person who
takes a point of view with the opportunities that you’re given. Third message, be
hard core. Hard core is really hard to define, but it is my
favorite expression. Hard core! Hard core means tenacious. Hard
core means long-term. Hard core means determined. I don’t care
what you do. You’ll have to be patient and industrious and
really stay after things. When Microsoft first decided it
wanted to sell software into businesses, people told us we
couldn’t. This was in the 1980s. They told us in 1989 we
couldn’t. They told us in 1995 we couldn’t. 2000, 2005. Today, if you look
at Microsoft’s enormous success, 70 or 80% of it comes from
selling the software that really automates the way businesses
and institutions like the University of Washington
automate. Tenacity, sticking with things. Outside the
business realm, Nelson Mandela. Just think about that case. The
constant nonstop long-term fight against apartheid that finally
paid off. Opportunity is about seizing what’s there. It is
about what’s having, having a point of view, but it’s also
about patience and determination. Things will not
necessarily come to you, poof, immediately and overnight.
You’re going to have to be determined and long-term. My
wife about seven years ago got started with some folks here at
the University of Washington on something called partners for
our children. It’s a center based here rat the university
that works in partnership with both private sources and the
state of Washington on ideas to reform child welfare. Seven
years, some progress. Seven years, a lot more to go. And
whether you’re choosing careers in business or the arts or in
areas in which you will do service, you will need to put in
long-term effort and be hard core in order to seize the
opportunities that are in front of you. Seize the personal
opportunities that are in front of you, too. I really believe
that people need to have more than one thing in their lives. I
feel fortunate I have a life partner, I have kids, I have a
family. And you need to seize those opportunities in addition
to the ones that you will find in front of you professionally. The two
of you guys said you are respectively 22 and 30 and don’t
know what you’re doing. I am 58 years old, and I too don’t know
what I’m doing again! [ APPLAUSE ]
>>I retired from Microsoft earlier this year. It’s a
wonderful opportunity, frankly, for Microsoft. Fresh blood,
fresh ideas, fresh thinking, fresh leader who is outstanding.
But new opportunities for the company, and I look forward to
new opportunities for me. One of those, I’m afraid to admit I
might be pursuing down in Los Angeles. Please forgive me that.
That’s a passion for sports. Yeah, I knew I had to take a
little bit of that. But anyway, I also am looking for what’s
next. How would I serve going forward? Government? Other
service, not as a politician. That’s certainly not me. You can
tell that. But the search for opportunity doesn’t stop. It’s
there in front of you at all times. You will face times where
you want to renew yourself. Seize the opportunity. Carpe
diem. Develop a point of view and then stay and really work on
things in a very hard core and determined way. You’re all in an
amazing spot, at an amazing time, and able to make an
amazing difference. I have a lot of faith, particularly as a
citizen of Seattle who loves living in the northwest, is
committed to being here for the rest of my life. The fate of
Seattle, the fate of Washington, the fate of the world is in the
hands of the class of 2014 of the University of Washington.
Please do a good job with it! We need you. Thank you all, and
congratulations! [ CHEERS & APPLAUSE ]>>>Ladies and gentlemen, we are
now ready to present the various degrees to all
candidates. [ CHEERS & APPLAUSE ]

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