Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • President Faust, Board of Overseers, faculty, alumni, friends, proud parents, members of

  • the ad board, and graduates of the greatest university in the world,

  • I'm honored to be here with you today because, let's face it, you accomplished something

  • I never could.

  • If I get through this speech today, it'll be the first time I actually finish something here at

  • Harvard.

  • Class of 2017, congratulations!

  • I'm an unlikely speaker today, not just because I dropped out, but because we're technically

  • in the same generation.

  • We walked this yard less than a decade apart. We studied the same ideas and slept through the

  • same Ec10 lectures.

  • We may have taken different paths to get here, especially if you came all the way from the

  • Quad, but today I want to share what I've learned about our generation and the world

  • we're building together.

  • But first, this last couple of days have brought back a lot of good memories.

  • How many of you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you got that email telling

  • you that you got into Harvard?

  • I was playing Civilization and I ran downstairs, got my dad, and for some reason, his reaction

  • was to video me opening the email.

  • That could have been a really sad video.

  • But I swear getting into Harvard is still the thing my parents are most proud of me for.

  • What about your first lecture at Harvard?

  • Mine was Computer Science 121 with the incredible Harry Lewis.

  • I was late so I threw on a t-shirt and didn't realize until afterwards it was inside out

  • and backwards with my tag sticking out the front.

  • I couldn't figure out why no one would talk to me -- except one guy, KX Jin, he just went

  • with it.

  • We ended up doing our problem sets together, and now he runs a big part of Facebook.

  • And that, Class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people.

  • But my best memory from Harvard was meeting Priscilla.

  • I had just launched this prank website Facemash, and the ad board wanted to "see me".

  • Everyone thought I was going to get kicked out.

  • My parents came to help me pack.

  • My friends threw me a going away party.

  • As luck would have it, Priscilla was at that party with her friend.

  • We met in line for the bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower, and in what must be one of the

  • all time romantic lines, I said: "I'm going to get kicked out in three days, so we need

  • to go on a date quickly."

  • Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.

  • I didn't end up getting kicked out -- I did that to myself.

  • Priscilla and I started dating.

  • And, you know, that movie made it seem like Facemash was so important to creating Facebook.

  • It wasn't.

  • But without Facemash I wouldn't have met Priscilla, and she's the most important person in my

  • life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.

  • We've all started lifelong friendships here, and some of us even families.

  • That's why I'm so grateful to this place.

  • Thanks, Harvard.

  • Today I want to talk about purpose.

  • But I'm not here to give you the standard commencement about finding your purpose.

  • We're millennials.

  • We'll try to do that instinctively.

  • Instead, I'm here to tell you finding your purpose isn't enough.

  • The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

  • One of my favorite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he

  • saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing.

  • The janitor responded: "Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon".

  • Purpose is that feeling that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, that you are

  • needed, and you have something better ahead to work for.

  • Purpose is what creates true happiness.

  • You're graduating at a time when this is especially important.

  • When our parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community.

  • But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs.

  • Membership in communities is declining.

  • Many people feel disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void.

  • As I've traveled around, I've sat with children in juvenile detention and opioid addicts,

  • who told me their lives could have turned out differently if they just had something

  • to do, an after school program or somewhere to go.

  • I've met factory workers who know their old jobs aren't coming back and are trying to

  • find their place.

  • To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge -- to not only create

  • new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose.

  • I remember the night I launched Facebook from my little dorm in Kirkland House.

  • I went to Noch's with my friend KX.

  • I remember telling him I was excited to connect the Harvard community, but one day someone

  • would connect the whole world.

  • The thing is, it never even occurred to me that someone might be us.

  • We were just college kids.

  • We didn't know anything about that.

  • There were all these big technology companies with resources.

  • I just assumed one of them would do it.

  • But this idea was so clear to us -- that all people want to connect.

  • So we just kept moving forward, day by day.

  • I know a lot of you will have your own stories just like this.

  • A change in the world that seems so clear you're sure someone else will do it.

  • But they won't.

  • You will.

  • But it's not enough to have purpose yourself.

  • You have to create a sense of purpose for others.

  • I found that out the hard way.

  • You see, my hope was never to build a company, but to make an impact.

  • And as all these people started joining us, I just assumed that's what they cared about

  • too, so I never explained what I hoped we'd build.

  • A couple years in, some big companies wanted to buy us.

  • I didn't want to sell.

  • I wanted to see if we could connect more people.

  • We were building the first News Feed, and I thought if we could just launch this, it

  • could change how we learn about the world.

  • Nearly everyone else wanted to sell.

  • Without a sense of higher purpose, this was the startup dream come true.

  • It tore our company apart.

  • After one tense argument, an advisor told me if I didn't agree to sell, I would regret

  • the decision for the rest of my life.

  • Relationships were so frayed that within a year or so every single person on the management

  • team was gone.

  • That was my hardest time leading Facebook.

  • I believed in what we were doing, but I felt alone.

  • And worse, it was my fault.

  • I wondered if I was just wrong, an imposter, a 22 year-old kid who had no idea how the

  • world worked.

  • Now, years later, I understand that *is* how things work with no sense of higher purpose.

  • It's up to us to create it so we can all keep moving forward together.

  • Today I want to talk about three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose:

  • by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equality so everyone has the

  • freedom to pursue purpose, and by building community across the world.

  • First, let's take on big meaningful projects.

  • Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation

  • like self-driving cars and trucks.

  • But we have the potential to do so much more together.

  • Every generation has its defining works.

  • More than 300,000 people worked to put a man on the moon \\'96 including that janitor.

  • Millions of volunteers immunized children around the world against polio.

  • Millions of more people built the Hoover dam and other great projects.

  • These projects didn't just provide purpose for the people doing those jobs, they gave

  • our whole country a sense of pride that we could do great things.

  • Now it's our turn to do great things.

  • I know, you're probably thinking: I don't know how to build a dam, or get a million

  • people involved in anything.

  • But let me tell you a secret: no one does when they begin.

  • Ideas don't come out fully formed.

  • They only become clear as you work on them.

  • You just have to get started.

  • If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have

  • started Facebook.

  • Movies and pop culture get this all wrong.

  • The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie.

  • It makes us feel inadequate since we haven't had ours.

  • It prevents people with seeds of good ideas from getting started.

  • Oh, you know what else movies get wrong about innovation?

  • No one writes math formulas on glass.

  • That's not a thing.

  • It's good to be idealistic.

  • But be prepared to be misunderstood.

  • Anyone working on a big vision will get called crazy, even if you end up right.

  • Anyone working on a complex problem will get blamed for not fully understanding the challenge,

  • even though it's impossible to know everything upfront.

  • Anyone taking initiative will get criticized for moving too fast, because there's always

  • someone who wants to slow you down.

  • In our society, we often don't do big things because we're so afraid of making mistakes

  • that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing.

  • The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future.

  • But that can't keep us from starting.

  • So what are we waiting for?

  • It's time for our generation-defining public works.

  • 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?

  • Today we spend 50x more treating people who are sick than we spend finding cures so people

  • don't get sick in the first place.

  • That makes no sense.

  • We can fix this.

  • How about modernizing democracy so everyone can vote online, and personalizing education

  • so everyone can learn?

  • These achievements are within our reach.

  • Let's do them all in a way that gives everyone in our society a role.

  • Let's do big things, not only to create progress, but to create purpose.

  • So taking on big meaningful projects is the first thing we can do to create a world where

  • everyone has a sense of purpose.

  • The second is redefining equality to give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose.

  • Many of our parents had stable jobs throughout their careers.

  • Now we're all entrepreneurial, whether we're starting projects or finding or role.

  • And that's great.

  • Our culture of entrepreneurship is how we create so much progress.

  • Now, an entrepreneurial culture thrives when it's easy to try lots of new ideas.

  • Facebook wasn't the first thing I built.

  • I also built games, chat systems, study tools and music players.

  • I'm not alone.

  • JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before publishing Harry Potter.

  • Even Beyonce had to make hundreds of songs to get Halo.

  • The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.

  • But today, we have a level of wealth inequality that hurts everyone.

  • When you don't have the freedom to take your idea and turn it into a historic enterprise,

  • we all lose.

  • Right now our society is way over-indexed on rewarding success and we don't do nearly

  • enough to make it easy for everyone to take lots of shots.

  • Let's face it.

  • There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars

  • in 10 years while millions of students can't afford to pay off their loans, let alone start

  • a business.

  • Look, I know a lot of entrepreneurs, and I don't know a single person who gave up on

  • starting a business because they might not make enough money.

  • But I know lots of people who haven't pursued dreams because they didn't have a cushion

  • to fall back on if they failed.

  • We all know we don't succeed just by having a good idea or working hard.

  • We succeed by being lucky too.

  • If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, if I didn't know I'd

  • be fine if Facebook didn't work out, I wouldn't be standing here today.

  • If we're honest, we all know how much luck we've had.

  • Every generation expands its definition of equality.

  • Previous generations fought for the vote and civil rights.

  • They had the New Deal and Great Society.

  • Now it's our time to define a new social contract for our generation.

  • We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but

  • by how many of us have a role we find meaningful.

  • We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new

  • things.

  • We\\'92re going to change jobs many times, so we need affordable childcare to get to

  • work and healthcare that aren't tied to one company.

  • We're all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us

  • up or stigmatizing us.

  • And as technology keeps changing, we need to focus more on continuous education throughout

  • our lives.\\ And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue

  • purpose isn't free.

  • People like me should pay for it.

  • Many of you will do well and you should too.

  • That's why Priscilla and I started the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and committed our wealth

  • to promoting equal opportunity.

  • These are the values of our generation.

  • It was never a question of if we were going to do this.

  • The only question was when.

  • Millennials are already one of the most charitable generations in history.

  • In one year, three of four US millennials made a donation and seven out of ten raised

  • money for charity.

  • But it's not just about money.

  • You can also give time.

  • I promise you, if you take an hour or two a week -- that's all it takes to give someone

  • a hand, to help them reach their potential.

  • Maybe you think that's too much time.

  • I used to.

  • When Priscilla graduated from Harvard she became a teacher, and before she'd do education

  • work with me, she told me I needed to teach a class.

  • I complained: "Well, I'm kind of busy.

  • I'm running this company."

  • But she insisted, so I taught a middle school program on entrepreneurship at the local Boys

  • and Girls Club.

  • I taught them lessons on product development and marketing, and they taught me what it's

  • like feeling targeted for your race and having a family member in prison.

  • I shared stories from my time in school, and they shared their hope of one day going to

  • college too.

  • For five years now, I\\'92ve been having dinner with those kids every month.