Addressing the graduating class of 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai urged the students to be open, hopeful, and “impatient“, and exuded confidence that they have a “chance to change everything“.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, on-ground graduation ceremonies are giving way to virtual ones. Google’s video platform YouTube organised a virtual event to give a farewell to these students.
“I don’t think this is the graduation ceremony any of you imagined. At a time when you should be celebrating all the knowledge you’ve gained, you may be grieving what you’ve lost: the moves you planned, the jobs you earned, and the experiences you were looking forward to. In bleak moments like these, it can be difficult to find hope,” Pichai said.
Pichai pointed to how generations often underestimate the potential of the following one.
“It’s because they don’t realise that the progress of one generation becomes the foundational premise for the next. And it takes a new set of people to come along and realise all the possibilities,” he explained.
Pichai drew comparisons between how he had grown up without much access to technology, and children nowadays are growing up with computers of all shapes and sizes.
He spoke of his early years in the US, and the challenges he faced in those years.
“My father spent the equivalent of a year’s salary on my plane ticket to the US so I could attend Stanford. It was my first time ever on a plane,” Pichai said, adding that a bright spot for him during that time was computing.
“The only thing that got me from here to there other than luck was a deep passion for technology, and an open mind,” he noted.
Pichai sought to assure the students that classes at various points in time have had to overcome challenges – whether it was the class of 1920 that graduated into the end of a deadly pandemic or the class of 1970 that graduated in the midst of the Vietnam War, and even the class of 2001 that graduated a few months before the 9/11 attack in the US.
“…and in all cases, they prevailed. The long arc of history tells us we have every reason to be hopeful. So, be hopeful,” he said.
The ceremony saw participation from former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Korean pop group BTS, singers Beyonce and Lady Gaga, former US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates, former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and activist Malala Yousafzai.
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