“No other university in the world has so profoundly shaped our modern age,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today in his commencement speech at Stanford University. Bloomberg’s speech was relevant to both the tech and Stanford communities, and often self-serving, as he touched on entrepreneurship, immigration reform, and marriage equality.
Bloomberg said Stanford has helped everyone in the country move forward, and likened Leland Stanford’s pioneering spirit to present-day entrepreneurs moving to Silicon Valley and New York City.
“Stanford is known for its bold entrepreneurial spirit,” a characteristic shared by Bloomberg, said Stanford President John Hennessy. As Hennessy introduced Bloomberg, the crowd lightheartedly booed Bloomberg’s Harvard MBA.
Hennessy praised many of Bloomberg’s accomplishments as mayor, but declined to mention the NYC tech campus, which Stanford withdrew its bid from.
“We had hoped that Stanford itself might help lead our tech boom in New York City. That didn’t work out — no hard feelings — but I think in the end, it will,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg talked up the NYC tech scene and urged grads to work there.
“I believe that more and more Stanford graduates will find themselves moving to Silicon Alley, not only because we’re the hottest new tech scene in the country, but also because there’s more to do on a Friday night than go to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale,” he said. “And you may even be able to find a date with a girl whose name is not Siri. Stanford graduates thrive in New York City–because both places thrive on innovation and entrepreneurialism.”
The Mayor moved on to discussing entrepreneurship, both from a broad perspective and from his personal experiences.
“Technological disruption drives innovation. And the more disruption there is, the better markets perform and the harder it is for monopolies to survive,” Bloomberg said. His comments are interesting in the wake of many high-profile battles between startups like Airbnb and Uber and New York City regulators.
“No one called us a startup or a tech company. They just called me crazy,” Bloomberg said about the founding of Bloomberg LLP.
“Work hard, take risks, follow your passion, embrace innovation,” he urged graduates. “The secret of success isn’t really a secret. It’s just that many people look for a shortcut…the American dream has no shortcuts and no endpoint. It is the freedom you have to chart your own journey.”
The mayor then discussed his work with the Partnership for a New American Economy, FWD.us, and the tech community in pushing for immigration reform.
“If those in Washington had any sense at all, they would be begging you to stay here in the U.S. But instead, our immigration laws may force some of you to leave in the months and years ahead,” he said. “It is the most backward economic policy you could possibly come up with,” he said to his loudest round of applause. “Every STEM student graduating today should have a green card stapled to their diploma.
“I hope you will make your voices heard,” he added, telling the crowd to call their elected representatives about immigration reform.
Bloomberg’s speech was at times highly political, but overall had a solid message for the class of 2013. I wonder how effective his efforts to talk up the New York tech scene will be; in my experience, most Stanford students and recent graduates already know that they could have more fun in New York than Sunnyvale, but still keep taking jobs in the area.
In my opinion, Newark Mayor Cory Booker gave a better speech in his 2012 address; Booker, a Stanford alumnus, spoke more to the entire graduating class, rather than focusing mostly on tech, and his references to his own Stanford experiences felt more genuine than Bloomberg’s heavily-researched, buzzwordy references.
And of course, I imagine it will be a while before another speaker comes close to Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 address, which a reader has linked to in the comments.
Bloomberg also spoke about marriage equality and the civil rights movement. He has already been in town meeting with tech folks, like SV Angel’s David Lee, and the Bloomberg “Next Big Thing Summit” starts tomorrow in Half Moon Bay.
You can read Bloomberg’s full prepared remarks here, and you can watch the full commencement ceremony below. Hennessy introduces Bloomberg right before the one-hour mark if you want to skip ahead.
Pic via Steve Case.