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Melinda Gates tells Duke grads: It's all about your real connections

Network World Staff | May 15, 2013
Transcript of technologist/philanthropist Melinda Gates' commencement address to Duke University graduates.

What does it mean to make of this world a brotherhood and a sisterhood? That probably sounds like a lot to ask of you as individuals, or even as a graduating class. I'm pretty sure none of you will respond to the annoying question "What are you going to do after graduation?" by saying "I plan to have the ethical commitment to make of this world a brotherhood."

But you can change the way you think about other people. You can choose to see their humanity first -- the one big thing that makes them the same as you, instead of the many things that make them different from you.

It is not just a matter of caring about people. I assume you already do that. It's much harder to see all people, including people whose experiences are very different from yours, as three-dimensional human beings who want and need the same things you do. But if you can really believe that all 7 billion people on the planet are equal to you in spirit, then you will take action to make the world more equal for everyone.


Paul Farmer, the Duke graduate I admire most, is a testament to the deep human connection I'm talking about. As many of you know, Paul, who's here today, is a doctor and global health innovator. For years, he travelled back and forth from Boston, where he is a professor of medicine, to Haiti, where he ran a health clinic giving the highest quality care to the poorest people in the world. Now, he lives mostly in Rwanda, where he's working on changing the country's entire health care system.

I first met Paul in 2003, when I went to see him in Haiti. It took us forever to walk the 100 yards from our vehicle to the clinic because he introduced me to every single person we met along the way. I am not exaggerating. Every single person.

As we moved along, he introduced each person to me by first and last name, wished their families well, and asked for an update about their lives. He hugged people when he greeted them and looked them in the eyes throughout each conversation. If you believe love plays a role in healing, there was healing happening at every step of that journey.

When we finally reached the waiting area outside the clinic, I saw a lovely garden with a canopy of flowering vines. Paul told me he built it himself, for two reasons. First, he said, it gets hot, and he wants to his patients to be cool in the shade while they wait. Second, he wants them to see what he sees, the beauty of the world, before they have to go into the clinic for treatment.


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