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‘Empathy tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for optimism’: Melinda Gates

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates recently announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage. During their togetherness they were closely involved with philanthropy and resonated the same message at Stanford University when both gave a commencement speech in 2014.

Both spoke on the power of optimism. After recollecting the horrid scenes they had witnessed during their work as part of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they stressed on the need to be positive. “Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better – that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away,” Melinda said.

“Bill and I talk about this with our kids at the dinner table. Bill worked incredibly hard and took risks and made sacrifices for success. But there is another essential ingredient of success, and that ingredient is luck – absolute and total luck. When were you born? Who were your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us earned these things. They were given to us,” she added.

In conclusion, she stated, “When we strip away our luck and privilege and consider where we’d be without them, it becomes easier to see someone who’s poor and sick and say “that could be me.” This is empathy; it tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for optimism. So here is our appeal to you: As you leave Stanford, take your genius and your optimism and your empathy and go change the world in ways that will make millions of others optimistic as well.

“You don’t have to rush. You have careers to launch, debts to pay, spouses to meet and marry. That’s enough for now. But in the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you’ll come to see suffering that will break your heart. When it happens, and it will, don’t turn away from it; turn toward it. That is the moment when change is born.”

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