Steve Ballmer: AACIS Unlimited Potential Grant Announcement

STEVE BALLMER: Well, thanks, everybody. And thanks particularly to our two wonderful speakers, and congratulations on your accomplishments — they’re really quite amazing.

We talk about our mission at Microsoft and it’s a little puffy and full of smoke, but it’s important to us. We talk about enabling people and businesses to realize their full potential. And it doesn’t sound very technical and it’s not what you might expect from a company that sort of grew up with kind of a bunch of computer heads, but the truth of the matter is after years of being at this it really, really is clear to us that the number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. The technology, the software, it doesn’t do anything — it enables people do things they didn’t think they could do, and when you hear the stories from Yolanda and Lisa, you’re really hearing about people who are realizing their full potential.

And so for me, it’s amongst the most gratifying things I get to do — to have a chance to hear from folks who are doing things, realizing their potential in ways that they never imagined based upon being enabled, if you will, by information technology.

We started a program about five and a half years ago that we call our — not surprisingly, I guess, given the mission — our Unlimited Potential program. And we know there are many people in society who for whatever set of reasons are disenfranchised from what’s happening in information technology — people don’t have the economic wherewithal, they don’t have the inclinations from the environment in which they’re working, living, being raised — and we do think it’s important.

Nobody will solve the problems of technology access by themselves. No one company, no one government, no one institution — and you’ve got to kind of chip away at these things a step at a time — but we decided as a leader in our business it was up to us to step up and try to help put information technology in front of people who might not somehow otherwise see it. And we said, look, the best ways to do that are through schools, community centers and people who know what’s going on in their community and will know the right place. Churches, community centers, schools, senior centers — we don’t really care, we want to make sure that we’re helping, if you will, to close that gap and let additional people realize their potential.

Last week we started a new program to award scholarships to minority students to help encourage people to get involved with computers. We did that in the communities where we have lots of people. It turns out we’ve got lots of people in Texas, we have about 1,5000 employees in Texas, most of them are in Las Colinas outside Dallas where we have a large call center. We asked high school students to write an essay on how they thought technology had changed their lives, and a girl named Kandace Waddy from the Dallas area wrote an incredible essay about the impact of technology on her potential. And we awarded her a $2,500 scholarship, which I’m sure she’ll value, but we also gave her a Tablet PC, which I bet she’ll value in a sense even more, even if it in fact costs less.

So we’re very excited about what can happen, yet we know it’s a big job nobody can solve alone and what we’re trying to do is stimulate. Over the last five years, I think we’ve made over US$60 million worth of donations in Texas alone. I was impressed. We don’t have that many people in San Antonio, but between our folks and the matching gifts our folks here have made, this year alone I guess our folks have contributed over $150,000 to local charities here in the San Antonio area.

So as part of trying to continue this process, and particularly today, to have a chance to do it with SBC and to be here with Randall to do this, it’s really exciting. After hearing about some of the great benefits that folks are getting out of the — I still want to say AACIS, I guess there’s no way to say that, “aahsis” or something, I gathered that but I’ll bet I’ll mispronounce it somehow — but we do want to join in contributing and stimulating the great work they’re doing to help folks like Yolanda and Lisa who we heard from today, and so we’re making a donation of $450,000 in cash and software for AACIS. (Applause.)

Guys like us, we get to contribute, we get to make donations, we get to sort of be cheerleaders but we’re not really the folks who do any of the work. The folks who do the work are the people who take the classes and the people who run the organizations, folks like Al Notzon, who I had a chance to sit next to over a brief breakfast. I think those are the folks who are really doing the hard work, rolling up their sleeves, making it happen and putting in the elbow grease to really go learn the things they need to learn to flourish and enable potential in this society.

So I want to say congratulations to the AACIS for the fantastic work that it’s doing, and count on us for our continued support.

Thanks, everybody. (Applause.)

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