Google CEO Sundar Pichai had a special message for the graduating class of 2020, urging them 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.
Recalling his humble roots and all the hurdles he crossed to reach this eminent position, Pichai revealed that his father spent his one year salary to purchase a flight ticket for him to the US.
“My father spent the equivalent of a years salary on my plane ticket to the US so I could attend Stanford. It was my first time ever on a plane. A phone call back home was more than $2 a minute, and a backpack cost the same as my dad’s monthly salary in India,” 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.
He further said: “Be open, be impatient, be hopeful. If you can do that, history will remember the Class of 2020 not for what you lost, but for what you changed. You have the chance to change everything. I am optimistic you will”.
The chief executive of officer of Alphabet, the parent of Google said, “I grew up without much access to technology. We didn’t get our first telephone till I was ten. I didn’t have regular access to a computer until I came to America for graduate school. And, our television, when we finally got one, only had one channel.”
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.
“In all cases, they prevailed. The long arc of history tells us we have every reason to be hopeful. So, be hopeful,” he 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 growing up with computers of all shapes and sizes.
“There are probably things about technology that frustrate you and make you impatient. Don’t lose that impatience. It will create the next technology revolution and enable you to build things my generation could never dream of. You may be just as frustrated by my generations approach to climate change, or education. Be impatient. It will create the progress the world needs,” he said.
He exuded confidence that the youngsters will make the world better in their own ways.
“The important thing is to be open-minded so you can find what you love… So take the time to find the thing that excites you more than anything else in the world. Not the thing your parents want you to do. Or the thing that all your friends are doing. Or that society expects of you,” he said.
The ceremony saw participation from former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Korean pop group BTS, singers Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, former Defense Secretary Robert M Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian YouTuber MostlySane aka Prajakta Koli and many others eminent personalities.
(With inputs from agencies)