Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates will be the 2014 Commencement speakers, marking the first time the podium at commencement will be shared by two speakers.
This year’s Commencement Weekend will also feature Fred Turner, associate professor of communication, giving the Class Day lecture, and poet and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer giving the Baccalaureate address.
As founders and co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this year’s speakers have worked together in serving those in need on a global scale. They also lead programs designed to tackle hunger and poverty, advance science and technology to improve health in developing countries and improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education.
Bill Gates—who spoke at Cubberley Auditorium two years ago about the importance of foreign aid and philanthropy in tackling global challenges—has directed the foundation’s work to eradicate polio, becoming a vocal advocate for immunization efforts. Melinda Gates champions global access to family-planning information and services and promotes evidence-based policy and programs that empower women and girls.
“Sharing a mutual commitment to a better world, Bill and Melinda Gates have taken on some of the planet’s toughest challenges,” said President John Hennessy in a press release. “This boldness is an ethos that we also embody at Stanford, and one we seek to instill in our graduates.”
The senior class presidents Dhruv Amin ‘14, Maya Humes ‘14, Lawrence Neil ‘14 and Mary Raddawi ‘14 said that the Gates’ were the their first choice for speakers.
“I think when you look at their body of work, they’ve really transcended business to a point where I think you’d be hard pressed to find who has done more for humanity than those two,” Amin said.
Amin added that the Gates’ impatience to quickly solve problems along with their general optimism about the nature of humanity are useful qualities the graduating seniors can emulate as they head into the real world.
Remarking on how the Gates will also be the first duo to share the Commencement speaker podium at Stanford, Raddawi said choosing both Bill and Melinda made sense, given how a lot of their work is a shared effort.
“None of the work that they have done and the impact they have had could have been done with just one of them,” Raddawi said.
As for the selections of Turner and Fischer, the senior class presidents spoke of how their work relates to dealing with global contemporary issues.
“For me, Professor Turner seems to be a hyper-relevant professor for the point in which we’re entering the real world right now,” Neil said. “He pushes us to think about how we interact with technology, how we interact with society in a new way.”
The 123rd Commencement Weekend is scheduled for June 13 to 15.
Contact Ileana Najarro at inajarro ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.