This weekend I have the great honor of addressing the International Relations and Global Studies Program at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, USA as they receive their university diplomas at the 2019 commencement exercises.
Their graduation ceremony will take place at the Sir Christopher Wren Building, the #1 oldest educational building in the whole of the USA, and considered a landmark historic building. Within the very same walls where I will stand, young students will have been learning continuously since 1693, when the university was founded… Yes, 300+ years ago!
You’ll be amazed at some of the historic alumni who studied at this College: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler and George Washington (who got his surveyor’s license there in 1749 at 17 years of age)…. What do they all have in common? Yes, these four students became Presidents of the United States! But there are many many more who I am sure will interest some of you.
Have you heard the expression: “If the walls could talk…”? Imagine!
__Who can imagine what professors 300 years ago might have been teaching their students within those walls?
Do you think the words “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” had even been invented yet?
When the President of William & Mary College, Katherine A. Rowe, wrote me earlier this year to invite me to deliver the commencement address to these global thinkers, she mentioned to me that leaders including presidents, secretaries of state and defense, and other leaders from government, not-for-profits and business had all been educated at the William & Mary College over the centuries.
You will be interested to know the College has an excellent Center for African Development and houses the Global Research Institute, a hub that brings together students, academics and practitioners to apply research to real world issues. You can Google it yourself but you’ll see its forward-looking classes include Artificial Intelligence, machine learning (etc) and of course, one of my favorite subjects… economics!
Maybe some of you have even been there? If so, please share your stories.
Later on I will share my commencement address with all of you here on the platform. This is not my first such opportunity to speak to graduating students at an American university. Each and every time it is a huge inspiration to me, to meet these young people and their professors too, with global vision and so much talent and ambition to transform their societies, and sometimes the whole world.
Now at such important moments, speakers are often expected to share our own experiences and sometimes “Words of wisdom” with young people as they set forth on new journeys, diplomas in hand.
If you were giving such an address to young university graduates today, what stories or wisdom would you share, from your own experience? (Even if you don’t have a high school/matric diploma, I promise you, you have important wisdom to share).
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa