We need to ‘tear down the walls … inside and out’ Laurene Powell Jobs told U Penn’s Class Of 2021
“In times like these, in times of hardship and uncertainty, it can feel like the world is conspiring to shrink our sense of possibility. To embitter us in the daring adventure of life. I’m here to say, don’t let him.
These are the words of Laurene Powell Jobs – entrepreneur, philanthropist and widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs – as she addressed her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, at the graduation of their 2021 class.
This is great advice for all of us, whatever our age, life or career, especially in today’s world of both massive crisis and tremendous opportunity.
Giving a starting address is always tricky, and after a year like 2020, it’s even more difficult. Student audiences can’t wait to be done with it and go celebrate, especially when they probably weren’t sure they could celebrate with their friends and loved ones because of the covid. At this point, having to listen to a start address could easily feel blah.
Powell Jobs seized the moment.
By sharing his own story of hardships and discoveries that many do not know, by acknowledging the ‘systemic failures’ of society and by inspiring graduates to ‘love what you do and who you do it’ as her late one would say. husband, she kept their attention.
She was quite poetic and raw at times, including when she spoke about the loss of her husband almost 10 years ago and how she let grief be empowering and enlightening. “We don’t go through grief and leave it behind,” she explained, “Instead, I found, we integrated it. With the happy memories, all the laughs, all the love that we are in. One of the most beautiful dimensions in life is integrating those you have loved and lost into your own being. We see more, we understand more and we love more. ”
She told U Penn graduates that “Steve used to say that your job will take up a lot of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you think is a great job. And the only way to do a good job is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Let his words guide you as they have guided me. The only way to do a good job is to love what you do. And while you’re doing it, love who you’re doing it for and love who you are while you’re doing it. ”
In a moving moment when she reminded students of their responsibility to be good citizens – and the temporal nature of it all – Powell Jobs said: “Be ambitious to be good stewards of our planet and stewards of one. others in the short time we have. together, because sometimes our time here is shorter than we would like.
Many college students were probably surprised to hear about her wrestling childhood growing up fatherless in New Jersey – her father died in a training accident as a Marine when she was just three years old. – and the “creative funding” she used to get. in college while her young widowed mother struggled to raise four children on a shoestring.
“Change in ourselves and change in the world happen in the same way. It comes slowly, slowly, then all at once, ”she said.
“What matters is your availability for the moment of revelation, of challenge, of opportunity. We must be prepared to walk through the door when it opens, or by our own power and our own purpose to open it ourselves. And sometimes we have to tear down the walls, the inside and the outside. ”
For example, she told the story of her own experience of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “This wall was made of concrete, rebar and old ideas. And then just like that people reconnected and a new world was born.
In inspiring students to tackle difficult societal challenges, Powell Jobs told them, “All of the systems in our society were created by people who are neither smarter nor more capable than you. And with your energy, intention, and willpower, you can change them. But only if you understand them. Identify systemic failures then imagine new structures. “