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Mark Zuckerberg to Harvard Students: ‘We Can Be the Generation That Ends Poverty’

Days after being dragged by the student newspaper, Harvard commencement speaker and Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg nonetheless delivered a powerful message to graduates. His speech to Harvard’s multicultural, international population (nearly 10,000 international students from 153 countries attend the university) called on students to be citizens of the world, and to enter the world with a sense of “purpose.”

“The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose,” Zuckerberg said. “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.” 

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The app developer, whose net worth is over $60 billion, has given of himself through charitable initiative time and time again. In 2015, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to donate 99% of all their Facebook shares toward “the cause of human advancement.” This has included a pledge of $3 billion toward curing and eliminating all diseases through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

Now, he’s calling on young people to use their creative and entrepreneurial force to make the world a better place. 

“It's time for our generation-defining public works,” he said. “How about stopping climate change before we destroy the planet and getting millions of people involved manufacturing and installing solar panels? How about curing all diseases and asking volunteers to track their health data and share their genomes?” 

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Zuckerberg also called for a “new social contract for our generation,” and suggested that this could come through “ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.” 

An idea that has been floated (and tested) in countries such as Canada, India, and Finland, the universal basic income is seen by some progressives as a way to reduce income inequality by allowing workers to be retrained for high-skilled and technological professions. 

But perhaps Zuckerberg’s most important message was one that should resonate with Global Citizens around the world. He urged graduates to consider that the world’s greatest challenges, and the greatest opportunities for progress, lie in the global community: 

“We get that our greatest opportunities are now global — we can be the generation that ends poverty, that ends disease. We get that our greatest challenges need global responses too — no country can fight climate change alone or prevent pandemics. Progress now requires coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.” 

This is a message well worth amplifying.