Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bill Gates: Reducing Inequity Is Top Priority

Bill Gates gave this inspiring commencement speech last week at Harvard. His central message is something that we would agree with at the Carnegie Council:

"...humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement." He is calling for a fairer world, one in which people use discoveries but go further by applying them for good.

We would agree: The motto of this blog and our online magazine Policy Innovations is innovations + ethics = better globalization.

Now, it is the duty of higher education to teach students about these problems, to give students a more global perspective. It seems Gates saw some failure but also some hope in this regard:

"I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country. And I knew nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.

It took me decades to find out.

You graduates came to Harvard at a different time. You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how – in this age of accelerating technology – we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them."

Gates's hope is well founded, I think. As I have written here, here, and here, in just the eight years since I attended graduate school, I have noticed a remarkable embrace of social activism, and ethical and global awareness in the academy. This movement has something to do with this generation of students' rejection of cynicism pervasive in politics, disappointment in government's ability to provide solutions, and a reassessment of the role of the corporation in society. These are positive developments, and America can be proud of this generation of young people.

A top mission of Policy Innovations is to provide students with case studies of people and their ideas for global social justice. We are happy to hear of more and more schools putting our website on their syllabi and asking to hear our story.

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