Unlike typical commencement speeches that tell students to find and pursue personal purpose, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took it one step further by encouraging 2017 Harvard graduates to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.” He outlined three ways to create such a world of purpose:
1. Take on big meaningful projects together.
- Each generation has its defining works that not only create progress, but also create purpose. For example, U.S.’s 300,000-people endeavor to put a man on the moon, millions of volunteers’s fight against polio, the epic effort to build the Hoover dam…
- What can be our generation’s defining works? Mark mentioned a few:
- Stopping climate change;
- Fighting diseases;
- Cure the healthcare system;
- Modernize democracy;
- Personalize education.
- 3 don’ts and 1 do: (1) You don’t need to know everything before you begin; (2) Don’t trust the idea of a single big eureka moment; (3) Don’t let the fear of making mistakes prevent you from getting started. Just get started!
2. Redefine equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose.
- From civil right movements to political programs that create social and economic equality, each generation expands the definition of equality. Our generation needs to redefine equality as well by providing people with the opportunities to pursue meaningful work, try new ideas (enabled by social safety net, affordable childcare, healthcare that aren’t tied to one employer, etc.), receive continuous education…
- “Entrepreneurial culture thrives when it’s easy to try lots of new ideas… The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.”
- “We can all make time to give someone a hand. Let’s give everyone the freedom to pursue their purpose — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we’re all better for it.”
3. Build community across the world.
- “Every generation expands the circle of people we consider ‘one of us.’ For us, it now encompasses the entire world.”
- Why is community important? “Progress now requires coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.”
- To build a community on a global scare, Mark emphasized the the importance of opening up and caring one another, starting on a local level, with ordinary people like us.
Mark ended his speech by citing Mi Shebeirach, the prayer he says whenever he faces challenge and sings to his daughter while tucking her into bed and thinking about her future:
“May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”