May 23rd, 2009

President Obama gave the 2009 commencement speech at the Arizona State University. Here’s an excerpt that I highly agree with:

“We’ve become accustomed to our economic dominance in the world, forgetting that it wasn’t reckless deals and get-rich-quick schemes that got us where we are, but hard work and smart ideas, quality products, and wise investments.

“We started taking shortcuts. We started living on credit instead of building up savings. We saw businesses focus more on rebranding and repackaging than innovating and developing new ideas that improve our lives.”

It’s no surprise that the tech world is getting hit so hard by this recession. Instead of developing quality products and innovating on new ideas, so many companies have been lusting after the quick venture: a slightly different way of targeted advertising, a flailing landrush for Facebook integration, and more useless iPhone applications.

As Tim O’Reilly says: work on stuff that matters. Keep an eye on the companies that survive this recession; they’re likely to come out of it with guns blazing.

Toward the end of his speech, President Obama commented on giving back:

“One student said it best when she spoke about her senior engineering project building medical devices for people with disabilities in a village in Africa. Her professor showed a video of the folks they had been helping, and she said, ‘When we saw the people on the videos, we began to feel a connection to them. It made us want to be successful for them.’

“Think about that. It made us want to be successful for them. That’s a great motto for all of us. Find somebody to be successful for. Raise their hopes. Rise to their needs.”

SCU kids: sound familiar? Those comments summarize the foundation of Jesuit education: do well to do good.

Obama’s full speech, with introduction by the president of ASU: http://www.youtube.com/v/Qbel5MhtDq4

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