Steve Ballmer: We Day Seattle

STEVE BALLMER: Did anybody here work hard for the privilege of being here today? (Cheers and applause.) You must not have had to work as hard as I think. Did anybody work hard to get here today? (Cheers and applause.)

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a We Day newbie. This is the first time in the U.S., and I’m glad to have it here in our town in Seattle, Washington. Thanks to all of you. Did you hear all those numbers, how hard you worked, how many people you’ve touched, how much money you’ve raised, how much blood, sweat and tears you’ve put in? Our community, and kids, and people in need around the world, I join them in saying thanks to all of you for what you’ve done. (Cheers and applause.)

When Craig first approached us, frankly speaking, we really didn’t know what We Day was. And Craig was after one of our guys and saying, kids changing the world, kids changing the world, kids changing the world. That worked. That got the attention of us at Microsoft. Changing the world is kind of the proposition on which Microsoft got started. The notion that technology, phones, PCs, tablets now, and so many more technologies are the source of empowerment and enablement and the path to well-being around the world.

And as we sit here today in this year, the chance for any of you to be part of using information technology to change the science that improves the environment, to be part of using information technology to improve the conditions and the healthcare for people in rural areas around the world, to use information technology to educate people better, to create jobs that give people a chance to really emerge from poverty. And information technology, frankly, as a form of free expression that we’ve seen lead to democracy in many parts of the world just in the course of the last few years.

So, we can believe in what We Day believes, the chance for every single person in this room to make a difference. And that’s what got us fired up. We see that through the lens of what technology can do. Craig sees it through the eyes of all of you. And I think it’s absolutely phenomenal.

The other part is, young people changing the world. I am not a young person. I am not a young person. I actually was when I started at Microsoft. And I joined a college friend of mine who had kind of gotten started on Microsoft when he was about 15, 16, 17 years old, Bill Gates, and his friend Paul Allen.

So, from the get-go, we kind of believed in this young person thing. A lot of the genius, the power, the invention, the creativity that comes to our business, to information technology, comes from young people. And now we have a whole generation of young people who won’t just invent new technologies, but you’re going to figure out how to use them, use them to help with all of the causes that have gotten you so fired up today.

I had a privilege to hear the story of a girl named Kianna (ph). Kianna is a junior in high school at Cedarcrest High School. She won a computer programming competition, and her prize was an Xbox. It’s a good prize in my opinion, a very good prize. But Kianna said, no, no, as much as I might enjoy this, there are kids waiting at Children’s Hospital for transplants. And I’ll bet those kids could use this more.

She went down to Children’s; she learned about what was going on. She saw the opportunity to use the Xbox and the Kinect, particularly with all of the therapy that kids need when they come out of transplants. She donated the Xbox. It has since been working as part of this We Day effort to raise additional money to buy the technologies that are needed to help these kids in Swedish hospitals. Congratulations, Kianna. (Cheers and applause.)

At Microsoft today, we also have dedicated ourselves to this cross-section, young people driving to make a difference. We announced a program a few months ago that we call YouthSpark. We want to reach 300 million people, 300 million kids, 300 million young people who would otherwise not have access to information technology. We want to help them get trained. We want to help them find jobs. We want to help them be effective in the world. We want to reach out to the less fortunate in the United States, as well as people in many, many developing parts of the world. In their hands, and in your hands, information technology will be key to solving the world’s problems.

I believe, and we believe at Microsoft, there are three things that really change the world. Number one, you have to have an idea. Pete said something about this, Pete Carroll when he was up here earlier.

Number two, you’ve got to be passionate. If you’re not passionate about things, how the heck can you make any kind of difference at all? I was close. I was close, real close. PG rating, I pulled right back. (Cheers and applause.) How the heck can you make a difference if you don’t care?

And three, number three, you have to be tenacious. To be here today, every kid in the room had to have some idea that mattered. You had to find something you were passionate about, and you had to stay committed and tenacious over a year.

One idea, one passion, and one set of commitment and tenacity is great. But I tell you, I am in awe of what the kids in this room, all of you, will be able to accomplish as you go forward tomorrow. (Cheers and applause.)

Keep your energy, keep your drive, keep learning, keep using the technologies, including Microsoft Surface, that will change the world, and have a great We Day. Thank you.

(Cheers and applause.)


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