1. An anxious generation.
Colleges Celebrate Diversity With Separate Commencements
By Anemona Hartocollis
Two days earlier, another end-of-year ceremony had taken place, just a
short walk away on a field outside the law school library. It was
Harvard’s first commencement for black graduate students, and many of
the speakers talked about a different, more personal kind of struggle,
the struggle to be black at Harvard.
From events once cobbled together on shoestring budgets and hidden in
back rooms, alternative commencements like the one held at Harvard
have become more mainstream, more openly embraced by universities and
more common than ever before.
Ms. Delgadillo, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical
engineering, had lobbied for the event for three years, as a member of
a group called the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership.
“The current political climate definitely pushed this initiative to
come to fruition,” said Ms. Delgadillo, the daughter of Mexican
immigrants living in Los Angeles.
Participants say the ceremonies are a way of celebrating their shared
experience as a group, and not a rejection of official college
graduations, which they also attend. Depending on one’s point of view,
the ceremonies may also be reinforcing an image of the 21st-century
campus as an incubator for identity politics.
“It’s not easy being a student, being a student anywhere, but
especially at a place like Harvard,” Ward
president of the American Civil Rights Institute and a former
University of California regent who campaigned against racial
preference in admissions, said sympathetically.
But events like black commencements, he continued, serve only to
“amplify” racial differences. “College is the place where we should be
teaching and preaching the view that you’re an individual, and choose
your associates to be based on other factors rather than skin color,”
Brandon M. Terry, the faculty speaker, joked that Harvard College’s
black graduation had become more mainstream since he graduated in
“You were teenagers, like Michael Brown when he was subjected to the
Sophoclean indignity of being shot dead and left in the blazing sun.
Your world was shaped in indelible ways by these deaths and others
like them, and many of you courageously took to join one of the
largest protest movements in decades to try to wrest some semblance of
justice from these tragedies.”
But like all the speakers, he spoke reverently of Harvard as an
institution, saying: “The dramatic privileges that you have and will
continue to benefit from in virtue of your association with this
university are only worth the social cost if they are to benefit
people worse off than you.”
Bhekinkosi Sibanda, a first-generation Harvard student from Zimbabwe,
said he had been ambivalent at first about participating in the black
“In an attempt at inclusivity, we don’t want to end up introducing
exclusivity,” he said. “You don’t want to end up where this black
commencement overshadows the entire commencement of the school. You
don’t want to blow away the glory.”
Then Mr. Sibanda remembered how a professor had asked if he wanted to
drop a class, when all he wanted was help. “It’s good to be able to
take this time for solidarity and identity,” he said, “to celebrate
what we’ve achieved.”
Building Global Community
History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever
greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations. At each step, we
built social infrastructure like communities, media and governments to
empower us to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.
This is a time when many of us around the world are reflecting on how
we can have the most positive impact. I am reminded of my favorite
saying about technology: “We always overestimate what we can do in two
years, and we underestimate what we can do in ten years.” We may not
have the power to create the world we want immediately, but we can all
start working on the long term today. In times like these, the most
important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social
infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community
that works for all of us.
Bringing us all together as a global community is a project bigger
than any one organization or company, but Facebook can help contribute
to answering these five important questions:
- How do we help people build supportive communities that
strengthen traditional institutions in a world where membership in
these institutions is declining?
- How do we help people build a safe community that prevents
harm, helps during crises and rebuilds afterwards in a world where
anyone across the world can affect us?
- How do we help people build an informed community that exposes
us to new ideas and builds common understanding in a world where
every person has a voice?
- How do we help people build a civically-engaged community in a
world where participation in voting sometimes includes less than
half our population?
- How do we help people build an inclusive community that
reflects our collective values and common humanity from local to
global levels, spanning cultures, nations and regions in a world
with few examples of global communities?
Our job at Facebook is to help people make the greatest positive
impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can
contribute to divisiveness and isolation. Facebook is a work in
progress, and we are dedicated to learning and improving. We take our
responsibility seriously, and today I want to talk about how we plan
to do our part to build this global community.
Online communities are a bright spot, and we can strengthen existing
physical communities by helping people come together online as well as
offline. In the same way connecting with friends online strengthens
real relationships, developing this infrastructure will strengthen
these communities, as well as enable completely new ones to form.
We recently found that more than 100 million people on Facebook are
members of what we call “very meaningful” groups. These are groups
that upon joining, quickly become the most important part of our
social network experience and an important part of our physical
support structure. For example, many new parents tell us that joining
a parenting group after having a child fits this purpose.
There is a real opportunity to connect more of us with groups that
will be meaningful social infrastructure in our lives. More than one
billion people are active members of Facebook groups, but most don’t
seek out groups on their own — friends send invites or Facebook
suggests them. If we can improve our suggestions and help connect
one billion people with meaningful communities, that can strengthen
our social fabric.
A healthy society needs these communities to support our personal,
emotional and spiritual needs. In a world where this physical social
infrastructure has been declining, we have a real opportunity to help
strengthen these communities and the social fabric of our society.
Today’s threats are increasingly global, but the infrastructure to
protect us is not. Problems like terrorism, natural disasters,
disease, refugee crises, and climate change need coordinated responses
from a worldwide vantage point. No nation can solve them alone. A
virus in one nation can quickly spread to others. A conflict in one
country can create a refugee crisis across continents. Pollution in
one place can affect the environment around the world. Humanity’s
current systems are insufficient to address these issues.
To help during a crisis, we’ve built infrastructure like Safety
Check so we can all let our friends know we’re safe and check on
friends who might be affected by an attack or natural disaster. Safety
Check has been activated almost 500 times in two years and has already
notified people that their families and friends are safe more than a
billion times. When there is a disaster, governments often call us to
make sure Safety Check has been activated in their countries. But
there is more to build. We recently added tools to find and offer
shelter, food and other resources during emergencies. Over time, our
community should be able to help during wars and ongoing issues that
are not limited to a single event.
Looking ahead, one of our greatest opportunities to keep people safe
is building artificial intelligence to understand more quickly and
accurately what is happening across our community.
Artificial intelligence can help provide a better approach. We are
researching systems that can look at photos and videos to flag content
our team should review. This is still very early in development, but
we have started to have it look at some content, and it already
generates about one-third of all reports to the team that reviews
content for our community.
As we discuss keeping our community safe, it is important to emphasize
that part of keeping people safe is protecting individual security and
liberty. We are strong advocates of encryption and have built it
into the largest messaging platforms in the world — WhatsApp and
Messenger. Keeping our community safe does not require compromising
privacy. Since building end-to-end encryption into WhatsApp, we have
reduced spam and malicious content by more than 75%.
Giving everyone a voice has historically been a very positive force
for public discourse because it increases the diversity of ideas
shared. But the past year has also shown it may fragment our shared
sense of reality. It is our responsibility to amplify the good
effects and mitigate the bad — to continue increasing diversity
while strengthening our common understanding so our community can
create the greatest positive impact on the world.
The two most discussed concerns this past year were about diversity of
viewpoints we see (filter bubbles) and accuracy of information (fake
news). I worry about these and we have studied them extensively, but I
also worry there are even more powerful effects we must mitigate
around sensationalism and polarization leading to a loss of common
But our goal must be to help people see a more complete picture, not
just alternate perspectives. We must be careful how we do this.
Research shows that some of the most obvious ideas, like showing
people an article from the opposite perspective, actually deepen
polarization by framing other perspectives as foreign. A more
effective approach is to show a range of perspectives, let people see
where their views are on a spectrum and come to a conclusion on what
they think is right. Over time, our community will identify which
sources provide a complete range of perspectives so that content will
naturally surface more.
Accuracy of information is very important. We know there is
misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take
this very seriously. We’ve made progress fighting hoaxes the way we
fight spam, but we have more work to do. We are proceeding carefully
because there is not always a clear line between hoaxes, satire and
opinion. In a free society, it’s important that people have the power
to share their opinion, even if others think they’re wrong. Our
approach will focus less on banning misinformation, and more on
surfacing additional perspectives and information, including that fact
checkers dispute an item’s accuracy.
Fortunately, there are clear steps we can take to correct these
effects. For example, we noticed some people share stories based on
sensational headlines without ever reading the story. In general, if
you become less likely to share a story after reading it, that’s a
good sign the headline was sensational. If you’re more likely to share
a story after reading it, that’s often a sign of good in-depth
content. We recently started reducing sensationalism in News Feed by
taking this into account for pieces of content, and going forward
signals like this will identify sensational publishers as well. There
are many steps like this we have taken and will keep taking to reduce
sensationalism and help build a more informed community.
Connecting everyone to the internet is also necessary for building an
informed community. For the majority of people around the world, the
debate is not about the quality of public discourse but whether they
have access to basic information they need at all, often related to
health, education and jobs.
Our society will reflect our collective values only if we engage in
the civic process and participate in self-governance. There are two
distinct types of social infrastructure that must be built:
The first encourages engagement in existing political processes:
voting, engaging with issues and representatives, speaking out, and
sometimes organizing. Only through dramatically greater engagement can
we ensure these political processes reflect our values.
The second is establishing a new process for citizens worldwide to
participate in collective decision-making. Our world is more
connected than ever, and we face global problems that span national
boundaries. As the largest global community, Facebook can explore
examples of how community governance might work at scale.
Facebook is not just technology or media, but a community of people.
That means we need Community
that reflect our collective values for what should and should not be
In the last year, the complexity of the issues we’ve seen has
outstripped our existing processes for governing the community. We saw
this in errors taking down newsworthy videos related to Black Lives
Matter and police violence, and in removing the historical Terror of
War photo from Vietnam. We’ve seen this in misclassifying hate speech
in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and
content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful
and should be taken down. Both the number of issues and their cultural
importance has increased recently.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year reflecting on how we can
improve our community governance. Sitting here in California, we’re
not best positioned to identify the cultural norms around the world.
Instead, we need a system where we can all contribute to setting the
standards. Although this system is not fully developed, I want to
share an idea of how this might work.
The guiding principles are that the Community Standards should reflect
the cultural norms of our community, that each person should see as
little objectionable content as possible, and each person should be
able to share what they want while being told they cannot share
something as little as possible. The approach is to combine creating a
large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help
The idea is to give everyone in the community options for how they
would like to set the content policy for themselves. Where is your
line on nudity? On violence? On graphic content? On profanity? What
you decide will be your personal settings. We will periodically ask
you these questions to increase participation and so you don’t need to
dig around to find them. For those who don’t make a decision, the
default will be whatever the majority of people in your region
selected, like a referendum. Of course you will always be free to
update your personal settings anytime.
With a broader range of controls, content will only be taken down if
it is more objectionable than the most permissive options allow.
Within that range, content should simply not be shown to anyone whose
personal controls suggest they would not want to see it, or at least
they should see a warning first. Although we will still block content
based on standards and local laws, our hope is that this system of
personal controls and democratic referenda should minimize
restrictions on what we can share.
Among the class of 2018, 41% have at some point sought mental health
support from the university’s health services. About 15% had also sought
support off campus. It’s a striking reminder that these young people
have studied at a time of rising concerns about stress and wellbeing on
2. More than one in five leave Harvard as virgins.
President Faust, Board of Overseers, faculty, alumni, friends, proud
parents, members of the ad board, and graduates of the greatest
university in the world,
I’m honored to be with you today because, let’s face it, you
accomplished something I never could. If I get through this speech,
it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard. Class of
There was a similar number who had never had any “dating” experience
while at university. Where dating did take place, dating apps were used
by 69%. But more than a fifth of these new graduates reported having
been “sexually harassed” at some point during their time as students.
I’m an unlikely speaker, not just because I dropped out, but because
we’re technically in the same generation. We walked this yard less than
a decade apart, studied the same ideas and slept through the same Ec10
lectures. We may have taken different paths to get here, especially if
you came all the way from the Quad, but today I want to share what I’ve
learned about our generation and the world we’re building together.
But first, the last couple of days have brought back a lot of good
3. Liberals in a Trump era.
How many of you remember exactly what you were doing when you got that
email telling you that you got into Harvard? I was playing Civilization
and I ran downstairs, got my dad, and for some reason, his reaction was
to video me opening the email. That could have been a really sad video.
I swear getting into Harvard is still the thing my parents are most
proud of me for.
What about your first lecture at Harvard? Mine was Computer Science 121
with the incredible Harry Lewis. I was late so I threw on a t-shirt and
didn’t realize until afterwards it was inside out and backwards with my
tag sticking out the front. I couldn’t figure out why no one would talk
to me — except one guy, KX Jin, he just went with it. We ended up doing
our problem sets together, and now he runs a big part of Facebook. And
that, Class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people.
Politically these young graduates, who began at Harvard during the Obama
administration, are opponents of the current presidency, with 72% saying
the US is going in the wrong direction. Only 3% of those who voted
backed Donald Trump, and two-thirds of these graduates describe
themselves as liberal or very liberal.
But my best memory from Harvard was meeting Priscilla. I had just
launched this prank website Facemash, and the ad board wanted to “see
me”. Everyone thought I was going to get kicked out. My parents came to
help me pack. My friends threw me a going away party. As luck would have
it, Priscilla was at that party with her friend. We met in line for the
bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower, and in what must be one of the all time
romantic lines, I said: “I’m going to get kicked out in three days, so
we need to go on a date quickly.”
Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.
4. Campus free speech?
I didn’t end up getting kicked out — I did that to myself. Priscilla
and I started dating. And, you know, that movie made it seem like
Facemash was so important to creating Facebook. It wasn’t. But without
Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important
person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I
built in my time here.
We’ve all started lifelong friendships here, and some of us even
families. That’s why I’m so grateful to this place. Thanks, Harvard.
There were signs that students are self-censoring their views and not
debating openly. About two-thirds of students had “at some point chosen
not to express an opinion in an academic setting out of fear it would
offend others”. This was particularly the case for Republican
supporters. But almost half of students wanted to have “trigger
warnings” if courses were going to include something that could be
upsetting or offensive.
Today I want to talk about purpose. But I’m not here to give you the
standard commencement about finding your purpose. We’re millennials.
We’ll try to do that instinctively. Instead, I’m here to tell you
finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is
creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.
One of my favorite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space
center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked
what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping
put a man on the moon”.
5. Raising a glass.
Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than
ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to
work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.
You’re graduating at a time when this is especially important. When our
parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church,
your community. But today, technology and automation are eliminating
many jobs. Membership in communities is declining. Many people feel
disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void.
Alcohol has proved to be the most durable of student diversions. More
than 90% drink alcohol, and most drink every week. But tobacco has
virtually been entirely stubbed out. There are almost no regular
smokers, and more than three-quarters have never even once smoked
tobacco. More students had tried cannabis than tobacco.
As I’ve traveled around, I’ve sat with children in juvenile detention
and opioid addicts, who told me their lives could have turned out
differently if they just had something to do, an after school program or
somewhere to go. I’ve met factory workers who know their old jobs aren’t
coming back and are trying to find their place.
To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge —
to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose.
6. School shootings.
I remember the night I launched Facebook from my little dorm in Kirkland
House. I went to Noch’s with my friend KX. I remember telling him I was
excited to connect the Harvard community, but one day someone would
connect the whole world.
The thing is, it never even occurred to me that someone might be us. We
were just college kids. We didn’t know anything about that. There were
all these big technology companies with resources. I just assumed one of
them would do it. But this idea was so clear to us — that all people
want to connect. So we just kept moving forward, day by day.
There have been high-profile protests by young people in the US in the
wake of school shootings. Harvard students backed calls to restrict
access to firearms, with almost nine in 10 supporting tighter gun
I know a lot of you will have your own stories just like this. A change
in the world that seems so clear you’re sure someone else will do it.
But they won’t. You will.
But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense
of purpose for others.
7. Smart students, smartphones.
I found that out the hard way. You see, my hope was never to build a
company, but to make an impact. And as all these people started joining
us, I just assumed that’s what they cared about too, so I never
explained what I hoped we’d build.
A couple years in, some big companies wanted to buy us. I didn’t want to
sell. I wanted to see if we could connect more people. We were building
the first News Feed, and I thought if we could just launch this, it
could change how we learn about the world.
This is a cohort of students completely immersed in digital technology.
Almost all of these new graduates own a smartphone, which are so
prevalent that they’re almost taken for granted. There is a strong bias
towards iPhones, used by 87% of those leaving Harvard, with 80% using
some other Apple computer device.
Nearly everyone else wanted to sell. Without a sense of higher purpose,
this was the startup dream come true. It tore our company apart. After
one tense argument, an advisor told me if I didn’t agree to sell, I
would regret the decision for the rest of my life. Relationships were so
frayed that within a year or so every single person on the management
team was gone.
That was my hardest time leading Facebook. I believed in what we were
doing, but I felt alone. And worse, it was my fault. I wondered if I was
just wrong, an imposter, a 22 year-old kid who had no idea how the world