On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg delivered a speech at Harvard University's 366th commencement ceremony, not long after receiving an honorary degree from the college he famously dropped out of. Zuckerberg left Harvard more than a decade ago to devote his time to his then-nascent company. Today, Facebook ranks among the most valuable businesses in the world, a fact that makes him a figure of near-legend at his alma mater.
(That's not to say he's a figure of solemnity: The Harvard Crimson was hacked earlier on Thursday and filled with fake stories, most of them silly plays on Zuckerberg's name.)
The theme of Zuckerberg's speech was "purpose." He thinks that people need to feel inspired by something bigger than themselves in order for communities and entire societies to function better. "Purpose is what creates true happiness," he told the audience. "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."
"We should have a society that measures progress...by how many of us have a role we find meaningful," Zuckerberg said.
"It's not enough to have that purpose yourself," Zuckerberg said. "You also have to create a sense of purpose for others." As an example, he talked about deciding not to sell Facebook when it was a young company. At the time, none of his fellow higher-ups agreed with the decision. "Within a year or so, every single person on our management team was gone," Zuckerberg said. "That was my hardest time leading Facebook." He attributed this conflict to not properly explaining his grand vision for Facebook's future.
Later, Zuckerberg's speech touched on politics. He believes that it's important for people to take on big projects--like putting a person on the moon or even building the Hoover Dam. Zuckerberg suggested that the Millennial equivalents can be things like addressing climate change and eradicating ever more diseases.
He also called for a stronger social safety net, explicitly framing it as a way to encourage entrepreneurship. Naturally, people take more risks when failure isn't catastrophic. "Our society is way over-indexed on rewarding people when they're successful," he said, but neglects to help people who aren't successful yet try more and more things. He suggested that we consider strategies like universal basic income, as well as calling for popular policies like decoupling health insurance from employment.
Zuckerberg edged closest to taking a controversial stand, perhaps, when he argued that Millennials should identify with globalism over nationalism, encouraging policies like free trade. "This is not a battle of nations," he said. "It is a battle of ideas." Zuckerberg explained, "Progress now requires coming together, not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community." Earlier, he said that "every generation expands the circle of people we consider one of us." And no one's more eager to facilitate that process than Facebook.