Amazing speech by Steven Chu at the Harvard 2009 Commencement. I love the quote by William Faulkner at the end.

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.”

Chu’s parting message:

Graduates, you have an extraordinary role to play in our future. As you pursue your private passions, I hope you will also develop a passion and a voice to help the world in ways both large and small. Nothing will give you greater satisfaction.

And Chu brings up an interesting point about generational responsibility. Increasingly we find ourselves focused on the present. Short-term actions and impacts drive our decision making more and more and this is seen in politics (influenced by 24×7 cable news), business (influenced by the stock market) and even in our daily lives with the information we have at our finger tips because of technology. Being able to think long term is crucial to solving many problems in the world, even if there is short-term pain.

Here is the dilemma. How much are we willing to invest, as a world society, to mitigate the consequences of climate change that will not be realized for at least 100 years? Deeply rooted in all cultures, is the notion of generational responsibility. Parents work hard so that their children will have a better life. Climate change will affect the entire world, but our natural focus is on the welfare of our immediate families. Can we, as a world society, meet our responsibility to future generations?

Read the full transcript of the speech by Steven Chu