“Graduates of Yale University, I apologize if you have endured this type of prologue before, but I want you to do something for me. Please, take a good look around you. Look at the classmate on your left. Look at the classmate on your right. Now, consider this: five years from now, 10 years from now, even thirty years from now, odds are the person on your left is going to be a loser. The person on your right, meanwhile, will also be a loser. And you, in the middle? What can you expect? Loser. Loserhood. Loser Cum Laude. In fact, as I look out before me today, I don’t see a thousand hopes for a bright tomorrow. I don’t see a thousand future leaders in a thousand industries. I see a thousand losers.
You’re upset. That’s understandable. After all, how can I, Lawrence “Larry” Ellison, college dropout, have the audacity to spout such heresy to the graduating class of one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions?
I’ll tell you why. Because I, Lawrence “Larry” Ellison, second richest man on the planet, am college dropout, and you are not. Because Bill Gates, richest man on the planet-for now anyway-is a college dropout, and you are not. Because Paul Allen, the third richest man on the planet, dropped out of college, and you did not. And for good measure, because Michael Dell, No.9 on the list and moving up fast, is a college dropout, and you, yet again, are not.
Hmm … you’re very upset. That’s understandable. So let me stroke your egos for a moment by pointing out, quite sincerely, that your diplomas were not attained in vain. Most of you, I imagine, have spent four to five years here, and in any ways what you’ve learned and endured will serve you well in the years ahead. You’ve established good work habits. You’ve established a network of people that will help you down the road. And you’ve established what will be lifelong relationships with the word “therapy.” All that is good. For in truth, you will need that network. You will need those strong work habits. You will need that therapy. You will need them because you didn’t drop out, and so you will never be among the richest people in the world. Oh sure, you may, perhaps, work your way up to #10 or #11, like Steve Ballmer. But then, I don’t have to tell you who he really works for, do I? And for the record, he dropped out of grad school. Bit of a late bloomer.
Finally, I realize that many of you, and hopefully by now most of you, Are wondering, “Is there anything I can do? Is there any hope for me at all? Actually, no. It’s too late. You’ve absorbed too much, think you know too much. You’re not 9 anymore. You have a built-in cap, and I’m not referring to the mortarboards on your heads.
Hmm … you’re really very upset. That’s understandable. So perhaps this Could be a good time to bring up the silver lining. Not for you, Class of ’00. You are a write-off, so I’ll let you slink off to your pathetic $200,000-a-year jobs, where your checks will be signed by former classmates who dropped out two years ago. Instead, I want to give hope to any underclassmen here today. I say to you, and I can’t stress this enough: leave. Pack your things and your ideas and don’t come back. Drop out. Start up. For I can tell you that a cap and gown will keep you down just as surely as these security guards dragging me off this stage are keeping me down…”
……At this point the Oracle CEO was ushered off stage.
Now this is allegedly an commencement address by Larry Ellison at Yale in 2000. A little background check reveals that its a HOAX and Larry did not say those words. But it sounds so like him, for those who have followed up on his personal life and general attitude. Assuming he uttered those words, he does raise numerous contentious issues. Larry Ellison who, apart from being one of the snobbiest people in the tech industry, also happens to be the CEO of Oracle sure can afford to utter these words if ever he decides to. He brands the excited graduating class of 2000 of an Ivy League institution, namely Yale as losers and exhorts their underlings to drop out “before it is too late”. I have no qualms about free speech and strongly support the First Amendment but I think Larry took it a bit too far. He used the esteemed Yale platform (which incidentally awarded the first doctorate in the United States) to spew his personal rage against institutional education. Aren’t keynote speakers supposed to do that i.e. speak their mind, at graduating ceremonies? Sure, they are but to shamelessly disregard the choice of others who sought to pursue an academic path and seek the benefit of education that adds (empirically proven) value to your mundane existence, was distasteful to say the least. But if I was the chancellor at Yale, I would have let him go on and then given him the famous “teen-taali” (three claps; more like a derogatary action in guise of a compliment…hurts real bad, ask some of the pakao speakers at our undergrad college).
Larry, I feel, has his priorites all mixed up and seeks to impose them onto others. He may be a workaholic and places material wealth at the top of his priority list. Sure, Bill Gates, Michael Dell opted out of college and stuck gold but I feel they would have done so even if they had stayed on in school. Opportunities are never missed for those who inculcate themselves with a spirit of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. As a basic and over-cited anomaly of neoclassical economics states that people don’t always value wealth to maximize their utility but also seek spiritual pleasures such attainment of higher knowledge, emotional peace, sense of fulfillment and familial life. If college was
pink-floydian in its thought impartation, I would have voiced Larry-isms too but college is much more than that. It is a treasure house of experiences, personality-molding environs, competing peers,
distasteful backstabbers, incubator of networking contacts and personal prestige gainer. We go to college not to learn about stuff but to learn to think, analyze and act appropriately.
On an egotistical tangent, I could have easily fit like a glove in my dad’s expanding architecture practice, designed stadiums, performing art complexes, and palatial farmhouses for reigning political elites, and made my millions. But Mr.Ellison, I choose to “go back to school” and I feel like I have heeded my calling. I may never head a Fortune 500 nor struggle to break into the top 10 richest but at the end of the day, if I contribute my mite to understanding the Laswellian puzzle of “who gets what, when and how” in the chaotic field of public policy I will have served my purpose. Larry might call me small-ambitioned and unmotivated but hey Larry, when I get up to speak on that stage, people
will listen and not drag me down, let alone remember my non-existential millions.