Philanthropist Melinda Gates urged graduates of her alma mater, Duke University, to embrace how connected the millennial generation is and use those connections to do good in the world.
"Of course, all the hype about how connected you are has contributed to a counternarrative -- that, in fact, your generation is increasingly disconnected from the things that matter," Gates said in her address as Duke's commencement speaker Sunday. "The arguments go something like this: Instead of spending time with friends, you spend it alone, collecting friend requests. Rather than savoring your food, you take pictures of it and post them on Facebook.
"I want to encourage you to reject the cynics who say technology is flattening your experience of the world," she said. "Please don't let anyone make you believe you are somehow shallow because you like to update your status on a regular basis."
Her theme throughout the speech was to take the Internet relationships the graduates have grown up with and use them as a tool to create more meaningful human relationships, even if their individual impact is small.
"[J]ust because you don't qualify for sainthood doesn't mean you can't form deep human connections -- or that your connections can't make a difference in the world," Gates said.
Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and co-chair of the Gates Foundation, recalled that she arrived at Duke in 1982 with a "cutting-edge" Olympus B12 portable typewriter, a gift from her parents. She griped that as computers began to replace typewriters, "those of us in the computer science department actually resented the change" because the humanities majors suddenly began "hogging our machines" to write their papers. Gates also remembered when the Duke basketball team beat the rival University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill squad, which had a player by the name of Michael Jordan at the time.
Gates earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke in 1986 and an MBA in 1987. She served on the Duke board of trustees from 1996 to 2003. The Gates Foundation donated $20 million to Duke in 1998.
"Over the course of your lives, I promise you, you will have many opportunities to use technology to make your world bigger, to meet more different kinds of people and to keep in touch with more of the people you meet," Gates said Sunday. "I want you to connect because I believe it will inspire you to do something, to make a difference in the world."
Watch Melinda Gates' entire speech in the video above.
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