Mark Zuckerberg Should Really Listen to Himself

TWELVE YEARS AFTER DROPPING out of Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg returned to campus—a few years older, a few commas richer—and delivered a commencement speech that expressed a radically different vision of his purpose in life from the one he spelled out in instant messages sent from the dorm room where it all started. The Facebook founder’s address started boilerplate enough, with Zuckerberg centering his talk around the importance of purpose, which, for him, is the nonthreatening concept of “connecting the world,” his longtime hobbyhorse. He urged the graduating class not to underestimate the impact of small actions and the importance of working toward a greater good.

But then Zuckerberg ventured out of his comfort zone. He made a few somber acknowledgments about the fear of technology and economic inequality, hitting on themes that would feel at home at any fireside chat in the South Bay, a region that has learned, post-election, that it must start acknowledging its shortcomings. (Though typically in a way that mostly speaks to and serves its own interests.) “Let’s face it,” he said. “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.” Zuckerberg alluded to this inequality again at the end of the speech, when he told the story of having breakfast with a former student he had tutored at the Boys and Girls Club in East Menlo Park years ago.

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