Five tech commencement speeches from the last five years

By Richard Nieva , written on May 7, 2013

From The News Desk

It’s that time of year again. When balloon makers spell the word “ConGRADulations” and we’re just supposed to be cool about it. But it’s not just graduation season for seniors in caps and gowns. No, it’s graduation season for all of us... Because we’ve got the Internet.

It’s about now that we start seeing Steve Jobs' beloved speech at Stanford pop up on our Facebook News Feeds. And blogs start dispensing their own brand of wisdom. Here’s Drew Magary’s profane and poignant commencement post from last year (though it looks like it didn’t quite make a successful trip to Kinja). The New York Times has already started us off this year.

But we wanted to give our readers inspirational speeches from tech and business leaders other than the wonderful but well-known Steve Jobs speech. Here’s one speech from a tech titan from each of the last five years:

2009 - Larry Page, Google cofounder, University of Michigan

You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning? Well, I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work. Soon after, I told my advisor, Terry Winograd, it would take a couple of weeks to download the web – he nodded knowingly, fully aware it would take much longer but wise enough to not tell me.
2010 - Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Auburn

In making my decision to come to Apple, I had to think beyond my training as an engineer. Engineers are taught to make decisions analytically and largely without emotion. When it comes to a decision between alternatives, we enumerate the cost and benefits and decide which one is better. But there are times in our lives when the careful consideration between cost and benefits just doesn’t seem like the right way to make a decision. There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate.
2011 - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, Barnard College

Pulitzer Prize winners Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof visited this campus last year and they spoke about their critically important book, Half the Sky…Their book is a call to arms, to give women all over the world, women who are exactly like us except for the circumstances into which they were born, basic human rights. Compared to these women, we are lucky.  In America, as in the entire developed world, we are equals under the law.  But the promise of equality is not equality.
2012 - Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor and Bloomberg founder, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Since the dawn of time, we have been sharing knowledge with each other. But today, knowledge is being shared globally as quickly as it is being discovered individually. That revolution in computer-based communications, which started in government laboratories, and in Steve Jobs’s garage, and in the little office I first rented 30 years ago – is now being led by the masses. Whether you like it or not: The computer nerds have won. We’re all computer nerds now.

  2013 - Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO, University of Michigan

[Referencing advice from an improv comedy coach]: He said, "You can’t plan a script. The beauty of improvisation is you’re experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what the next line is supposed to be, you’re just going to be disappointed when the other people on stage with you don’t do or say what you want them to do and you’ll stand there frozen. Be in this moment.”