Mark Zuckerberg Motivational Speech – Havard Commencement

Mark Zuckerberg motivational speech at The Havard University where he quoted: “The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail”. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg gave his address at Harvard’s 366th Commencement on May 25, 2017 at Tercentenary Theatre.

Mark Zuckerberg Motivational Video Transcript:

I love this place.

Thank you all for coming out in the rain, the pouring rain.

We’re going to make this worth it for you. President Faust, Board of Overseers, Faculty, Friends Alumni, 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!

Now, I’m an unlikely speaker today.

Not just because I dropped out but because we’re technically in the same generation, we walk this yard less than a decade apart. We studied the same ideas and slept through the same Act 10 lectures.

We may have taken different roads 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 all building together.

But first, these 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 you got into Harvard. I was playing, I was playing the video game’s civilization and I ran downstairs and got my dad, and for some reason his first reaction was to video me opening the email. That could have been a really, really sad video.

But I swear getting into Harvard is the thing my parents are most proud of me for. My mom is nodding.

You’ll know what I’m talking about.

Look guys.

It’s tough to beat this you’ll see when you get out there.

How many of you remember your first lecture here at Harvard?

Mine was computer science 121 with the incredible Harry Lewis, Harry. I was running late for class.

So I throw on a t-shirt and I didn’t realize until afterwards, I put it on inside out and backwards, my tag was sticking out the front. I couldn’t figure out why no one in class would talk to me.

Except for this one guy KX Jin, he just went with it.

We start 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 is 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 drove up here to help me pack my stuff, my friends threw me a going-away party.

Who does that? As luck would have it, Priscilla was at that party, with her friends and we met in line for the bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower and then what must be one of the all-time most romantic lines.

I turned to her and said I’m getting kicked out in three days. So we need to go on a date quickly.

Actually any of you graduating today can use that line.

I’m getting kicked out today when you go on a date fast.

I don’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 starting Facebook.

It wasn’t.

But without facemash I never would have met Priscilla and Priscilla is the most important person in my life.

So you could still say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.

We have 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 try to do that instinctively.

Instead, I’m here to tell you that finding your purpose isn’t enough.

The challenge for our generation is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

One of my favorite stories is when JFK went to go visit the NASA Space Center and he saw janitor holding a broom and he asked him what he was doing in the janitor replied.

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 that you have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.

And you are graduating at a time when this is especially important. When our parents graduated that sense of purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community, but today technology and automation are eliminating many jobs.

Membership in a lot of communities has been declining and a lot of people are feeling disconnected and depressed and are trying to fill a void in their lives.

As I’ve traveled around I’ve sat with children and juvenile detention and opioid addicts, who told me that maybe their lives would 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 they’re just trying to find their path ahead.

For our society to keep moving forward.

We have a generational challenge to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose.

I remember that night, I launched Facebook from that little Dorman Kirkland house.

I went to Nokes with my friend KX and I remember telling him clearly that I was excited to help connect the Harvard Community, but one day someone would connect the whole world.

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

We were just college kids.

We don’t know anything about that.

There were all these great big technology companies with all these resources and 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 working on it day after day, after day. And I know that a lot of you are going to have your own stories just like this. A change in the world that seems so clear, that you are sure someone else is going to do it, but they’re not, you will.

But it’s not enough to have that purpose yourself.

You also have to create a sense of purpose for others and I found that out the hard way.

You see my hope was never to build a company, I wanted to have an impact and is all these people started joining us.

I just assume that that’s what they wanted to do to so I never took the time to explain what it was that I hoped we’d build. A couple of 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 and we were building the first version of Newsfeed at the time and I thought, if we could just launched this it could change how we all learn about the world.

Nearly everyone else wanted to sell.

Without a sense of higher purpose, this was their startup dream come true and it tore our company apart. After one particularly tense argument.

One of my close advisers told me if I didn’t agree to sell the company right now.

I would regret that decision for the rest of my life. Relationships were so afraid that within a year or so, every single person on our 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 things actually worked.

Now years later, I understand that is how things work when there’s no sense of higher purpose.

So it’s up to all of us to create it so we can all keep moving forward together.

And today I want to talk about three ways that we can 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 their purpose and by building Community all across the world.

So first, let’s take on big meaningful projects.

Our generation is going to 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 than that. Every generation has its defining works. More than 300,000 people work to put that man on the moon including that janitor, millions of volunteers immunize children around the world against polio and millions of more people built the Hoover Dam and other great projects.

And now it’s our generations turn to do great things.

Now, I know maybe you’re thinking I don’t know how to build a Dam.

I don’t know how to get a million people involved in anything.

Well, 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 know everything about connecting people before I got started, I never would have built Facebook.

Movies and pop culture just get this all wrong, the idea of a single Eureka moment is a dangerous lie.

It makes us feel inadequate because we feel like we haven’t had ours yet.

And it prevents people with seeds of good ideas from ever getting started in the first place.

Oh and you know what else movies get wrong about innovation.

No one writes math formulas on glass.


All right, that’s not a thing.


It’s really good to be idealistic, but be prepared to be misunderstood. Anyone working on a big vision is going to get called crazy, even if you end up right.

Anyone taking on a complex problem is going to get blamed for not fully understanding it, even though it’s impossible to know everything upfront. Anyone taking initiative will always get criticized for moving too fast because there’s always someone who wants to slow you down.

In our society we often don’t take on 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 today is going to have some issues in the future, but that can’t stop us from getting started.

So what are we waiting for?

It is time for our generation defining great 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 getting people involved by asking volunteers to share their health data, track their health data and share their genomes. You know today, our society spends more than 50 times as much treating people were sick as we invest in finding cures.

So people don’t get sick in the first place.

It makes no sense.

We can fix this.

How about modernizing democracy?

So everyone can vote online?

And how about personalizing education?

So everyone can learn. These achievements are all within our reach. Let’s do them all in a way that gives everyone in our society a roll.

Let’s do big things not just to create progress, but to create purpose. So taking on big meaningful projects together is the first thing we can do to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

The second is redefining our idea of equality.

So everyone has the freedom to pursue their purpose.

Now many of our parents had stable jobs throughout their careers, but in order generation, we’re all a little entrepreneurial whether we’re starting our own projects or finding our role in another one and you know, that’s great because our culture of Entrepreneurship is how we create so much progress.

An entrepreneurial culture thrives when it is easy to try lots of new ideas.

Facebook was in the first thing I built, I also built chat systems and games, study tools and music players and I’m not alone. JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before she finally wrote and published Harry Potter. Even Beyonce had to make hundreds of songs to get Halo.

The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.

Now today we have a level of wealth inequality that hurts everyone. When you can’t, when you don’t have the freedom to take your idea and turn it into a historic Enterprise.

We all lose.

And right now today our society is way over indexed on rewarding people when they’re successful, and we don’t do nearly enough to make sure that everyone can take lots of different 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 even afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business.


I know a lot of entrepreneurs.

And I don’t know a single person who gave up on starting a business because they were worried they might not make enough money.

But I know too many people who haven’t had the chance to pursue their dreams because they didn’t have a cushion to fall back on if they failed.

We all know you don’t get successful just by having a good idea or working hard, you get successful by being lucky, too. If I had to support my family growing up instead of having the time to learn how to code, if I didn’t know that I was going to be fine if Facebook didn’t work out, then I wouldn’t be standing up here today.

And if we’re honest, we all know how much luck we’ve had to get to this point in our lives.

Every generation expands its definition of equality. Previous generations fought for the vote and civil rights.

They had the New Deal and Great Society.

And now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract. 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 make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.

We’re all going to change jobs and roles many times.

So we need affordable childcare to get to work and health care that’s not tied to just one employer.

And we’re all going to make mistakes.

So we need to society that’s less focused on locking us up in stigmatizing us when we do, and as our technology keep on evolving we need a society that is more focused on providing continuous education through our lives.

And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn’t going to be free.

People like me should pay for it.

And a lot of you are going to do really well and you should too. That is why Priscilla and I started the Chan Zuckerberg initiative and committed our wealth to promoting equal opportunity.

These are the values of our whole 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 just one year, more than three and four US Millennials donated to charity and more than 7 and 10 raise money for another one.

But it’s not just about giving money.

You can also give time.

And I promise you if you just take an hour or two a week, that’s all it takes to give someone a hand and help them reach their potential.

Now maybe you’re thinking that’s a lot of time.

I’m not sure if I have that much time.

I used to think that, you know when Priscilla graduated from Harvard, she became a teacher and before she do education work with me.

She told me that I needed to get my own experience teaching a class.

At first I complained, you know, I’m kind of busy running this company, but she insisted.

So I taught an after-school program at the local Boys and Girls Club on Entrepreneurship.

I taught those kids lessons on product development and marketing, and they taught me what it was like growing up feeling targeted for your race, and what it’s like having a family member in prison. I shared stories of my time in school and they shared their hope that one day they would get to go to college too. For five years, I’ve had dinner with those students every month.

One of them even through Priscilla and me our first baby shower. And next year they’re going to college, every one of them, first generation and their families we can all make time to give someone a hand.

Let’s give everyone the freedom to pursue purpose not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we are all better for it.

Purpose doesn’t only come from work.

the third way, we can create a sense of purpose for everyone is by building community, and in our generation, when we say purpose for everyone, we mean everyone in the world. Now quick show of hands, how many of you here are from another country?

I now keep your hands up, how many of you are friends with one of these folks?

Now we’re talking, see we have we have grown up connected.

in a recent survey of Millennials around the world asking what most defines our identity, the most popular answer wasn’t nationality, ethnicity or religion.

It was citizen of the world.

That’s a big deal.

Every generation expands the circle of people we consider one of us.

And in our generation that now includes the whole world.

We understand that the great arc of human history bends towards people coming together in ever greater numbers, from tribes to Cities, to Nations, to achieve things that we could not on our own.

We get that our greatest opportunities are now global.

We can be the generation that ends poverty, that ends disease.

And 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. But we live in an unstable time.

There are people left behind by globalization across the whole world and it’s tough to care about people in other places. Well, we don’t first feel good about our lives here at home.

There’s pressure to turn inwards.

This is the struggle of our time, the forces of freedom openness and Global Community, against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism.

Forces for the flow of knowledge trade and immigration against those who would slow them down.

This is not a battle of Nations.

It is a battle of ideas.

There are people in every country for more Global Connection and there are good people against it.

And this isn’t going to be decided at the UN either.

It’s going to happen at the local level, when enough of us feel a sense of purpose and stability and our own lives that we can start to open up and care about everyone else, too.

And the best way to do that is to start building local communities right now.

We all get a lot of meaning from our communities. Who hears from Elliott House?

How about Lowell?

I know you guys found Community because he literally live right on top of each other. And Mather, I’ll just leave that there.

Whether our communities, our houses or sports teams, churches or acapella groups.

They give us that sense that we were a part of something bigger, that we are not alone.

They give us the strength to expand our horizons.

And that’s why it’s so striking that over the past few decades membership in all kinds of communities has declined by as much as 1/4, that’s a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose somewhere else.

But I know that we can rebuild these communities and start new ones because many of you already are.

I met Agnes Igoye, who’s graduating today. Agnes, Where are you?

Agnes spent her childhood navigating conflict zones with human trafficking and Uganda, and now she’s trained thousands of law enforcement officials to keep communities safe.

I met Kayla Oakley and Neha Jain, graduating today too, stand up guys.

Kayla Neha started a non-profit that connects people suffering from chronic illnesses with people in their communities who are willing to help out.

And I met David Razu Aznar, who’s graduating from the Kennedy School today.

David stand up.

David is a former city councilor who fought to make Mexico City the first Latin American city to pass marriage equality, even before San Francisco.

And this is my story too.

A student in a dorm connecting one community at a time and keeping at it, until one day we can connect the whole world.

Change starts local, even global change starts small with people like us.In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more whether we achieve our greatest opportunities comes down to this, your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.

Class of 2017 you are graduating into a world that needs purpose and it’s up to you to create it.

Now maybe you’re asking yourself.

Can I really do this?

Well, remember when I told you about that class I taught at the Boys & Girls Club.

One day after class.

I was talking to my students about going to college and one of my top students raised his hand and said that he wasn’t sure he could go to college because he’s undocumented.

He wasn’t sure if they take him.

Last year, I took him out to breakfast for his birthday.

And I wanted to get him a gift.

So I asked him what he wanted, and he just started talking about struggles that he saw other students in his class facing and finally said, “You know, I’d really just like a book on social justice.”

I was blown away.

Here is a young guy who has every reason to be cynical.

He wasn’t sure if the country he calls home.

The only one he is known was going to deny him, his dream of going to college.

But he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.

He wasn’t even thinking of himself.

He has a greater sense of purpose and he’s going to bring people along with him.

It says something about our situation today, that I can’t even say his name because I don’t want to put him at risk.

But if a high school senior who doesn’t know what the future holds for him can do his part to move the world forward, then we owe it to the world to do our part too.

So before you walk out those Gates one last time, and as we sit here in front of Memorial Church, I’m reminded of a prayer, Mi Shebeirach, that I say whenever I face a big challenge, that I sing to my daughter thinking of her future when I tuck her in at night. And it goes:

“May the source of strength, whose blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”

I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.

Congratulations class of 2017.

Good luck out there.

Thank you!

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