Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Graduation Address of Muhammad Yunus

Many readers of this site will no doubt be experiencing or enduring a graduation ceremony at this season.

Here are some excerpts from the stirring Commencement address by Muhammad Yunus at MIT entitled: "Each of you has the power to change the world."

“Your generation has the opportunity to make a break with the past and create a beautiful new world. We see the ever-growing problems created by the individual-centered aggressively accumulative economy. If we let it proceed without serious modifications, we may soon reach the point of no return. Among other things, this type of economy has placed our planet under serious threat through climatic distortions. Single-minded pursuit of profit has made us forget that this planet is our home; that we are supposed to make it safe and beautiful, not make it more unliveable everyday by promoting a life-style which ignores all warnings of safety.”

“At this point let me give you the good news. No matter how daunting the problems look, don't get brow beaten by their size. Big problems are most often just an aggregation of tiny problems. Get to the smallest component of the problem. Then it becomes an innocent bite-size problem, and you can have all the fun dealing with it. You'll be thrilled to see in how many ways you can crack it. You can tame it or make it disappear by various social and economic actions, including social business. Pick out the action which looks most efficient in the given circumstances. Tackling big problems does not always have to be through giant actions, or global initiatives or big businesses. It can start as a tiny little action. If you shape it the right way, it can grow into a global action in no time. Even the biggest problem can be cracked by a small well-designed intervention. That's where you and your creativity come in. These interventions can be so small that each one of you can crack these problems right from your garage. If you have a friend or two to work with you, it is all the more better. It can be fun too.”

“You are born in the age of ideas. Ideas are something an MIT graduate, I am sure, will not run out of. The question I am raising now -- what use [do] you want to make of them? Make money by selling or using your ideas? Or change the world with your ideas? Or do both? It is up to you to decide.”

“There are two clear tasks in front of you -- 1) to end poverty in the world once for all, and 2) to set the world in the right path to undo all the damage we have done to the environment by our ignorance and selfishness. Time is right. Your initiatives can produce big results, even lead you to achieving these goals. Then yours will be the most successful generation in human history. You will take your grand-children to the poverty museums with tremendous pride that your generation had finally made it happen.”

“Congratulations, for being part of a generation which has exciting possibilities, and advance congratulations to you all for your future successes in creating a new world where everyone on this planet can stand tall as a human being.”

The entire address, including the story of microcredit and the rise of the Grameen Bank, is posted at Stories for Speakers and Writers, 10 June 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Muhammad Yunus