Google’s Eric Schmidt Delivers 2012 Commencement Address at Berkeley

And, now … you follow them. Yes, you, sitting there now, baking in the sun, possibly nursing a hangover, thinking, My God — that’s a lot of pressure. What can I do? What can I dream?

Well, that’s your question to answer. I can’t do it for you. But, here’s what I know. I know one thing for certain: No graduating class gets to choose the world they graduate into — just like you don’t get to choose your parents and siblings! Every class has its own unique challenges. Every class enters a history that, up to that point, is being written for it. This is no different.

What is different, though, is the chance each generation has to take that history and write it larger — or, in my business, to program it better. And on that score, your generation’s opportunities are greater than any generation’s in modern history.

You can write the code for all of us.

You’re connecting to each other in ways those who came before you could never dream of. And you’re using those connections to strengthen the invisible ties that hold humanity together, and to deepen our understanding of the world around us. You are emblems of the sense of possibility that will define our new age.

In the past, it’s always older generations, standing up on high, trying to teach the next generation the ways of the world — trying to make sure they follow in their footsteps.

Well, graduates — I’ll admit, it’s different today. You’re, quite simply, teaching us.

This generation — your generation — is the first fully connected generation the world has ever known.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up? Check your phone? Your laptop? Read some email, comb through your social networks? If you are awake, you are online. You are connected. Some of you are probably texting your friends right now. Tweeting this speech. Changing your status. Smile, you’re on camera.

There’s this joke about the college kid getting mugged, who says, “Hold on — let me update my status, letting my friends know I’m getting mugged, then you can have my phone.” This is ridiculous, obviously. But it’s also telling — a stark depiction of just how essential technology has become to your generation’s identity and your ability to connect with the world.

Identity and connection — concepts as old as humanity itself — define so much of who we are now. They shape our times, define the human condition. Identity and connection — it is your task to take those timeworn concepts, spin them around, reimagine them, make them fresh and new and exciting. Berkeley helped build that platform for all of us.

I know it’s daunting. I know it’s not a great economy to be walking off this stage into. I know all this. But I know you have an advantage — a competitive edge — you have an innate mastery of technology, an ability to build and foster connections that no generation before you ever possessed.

People bemoan a generation who grew up living life in front of screens, always connected to something or someone. Those people are wrong. The fact that we are all connected now is a blessing, not a curse, and we can solve many problems in the world as a result.

Not only is it an advantage you have; it’s a responsibility you carry.

Today, there are 54 wars and conflicts raging around the world. 1.5 billion people live on less than $1 a day, and hundreds of millions of children will go to bed hungry tonight. Nearly half the world’s people don’t live under democratic governments — the rights we all enjoy are a rarity, not a norm. And when it comes to the Internet, we think “everyone” is online. But only 1 billion people have smartphones, and only 2 billion have access to the web today. For most of the world, Internet cafes are like digital oases in technological deserts.

But in this century, there is a chance for change on the horizon. The spread of mobile phones and new forms of connectivity offers us the prospect of connecting every community in our lifetime.

When that happens, connectivity can revolutionize every aspect of society — politically, socially, economically. To connect the world is to free the world. So if we get this right, then we can fix all the other problems too …

… Again, no pressure.

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