Speaking at the Foster School’s Undergraduate Graduation Celebration in the Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Sunday, Chris DeWolfe (BA 1988) pledged to veer from commencement address orthodoxy.
“It’s appropriate that we rip up the commencement speaker handbook,” DeWolfe said. “After all, you are a generation of disruptors… And unlike the professional pessimists who are cynical about the Millennial generation, I’m more confident than ever that you will do disruption right.”
DeWolfe knows a few things about disruption. The co-founder and former CEO of the seminal social networking company Myspace helped revolutionize the way that humans interact and form communities in the digital age. Now, as CEO of Social Gaming Network (SGN), he’s changing the way that casual games are produced and played.
But on this day at his alma mater, DeWolfe was more interested in exploring what’s next for the 700+ new Foster grads than revisiting his own past or even present. “Your future is a lot more interesting,” he told the throng of kindred disruptors (and their families) in attendance.
DeWolfe accentuated the positive of the Millennial profile, saying, “You’re curious, you’re creative, you’re connected to the world.”
And though a native facility with digital technology sometimes defines this generation of burgeoning adults, he argued that “technology is your window into the world. It doesn’t isolate you, it inspires you. It doesn’t enslave you, it liberates you. It doesn’t close you off, it opens new horizons.”
But if technology comes naturally to these Foster graduates, he challenged them to use this power for good in the world. Cure our most deadly diseases. Unleash the potential of green energies. Solve the intractable problems of poverty, hunger, lack of water and education. Stave off climate change.
Citing a survey that some 70 percent of Millennials hold entrepreneurial ambitions, DeWolfe conveyed enormous confidence in the collective response of this class of Foster graduates (and their entire generation):
“A technologically intuitive generation that’s empathetic, enlightened, empowered and enabled, one that is caring and creates community, that values relationships over material things—that’s a generation that is going to use technology to solve the world’s biggest problems.”
Advice and challenge
In closing, DeWolfe returned to convention (by Dean Jiambalvo’s request) and offered six pieces of advice to the newly minted Foster grads:
- Don’t listen to the so-called experts. They base their opinions on the past. You are the future. Listen to your gut.
- Follow your passion. Success and money will follow.
- Learn from failure. There will be another day. Don’t let it erase your confidence. Let your losses inform you rather than imprison you.
- Be present with friends and family. They are your cornerstone, your home base. They help you keep perspective and balance.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
- Refuse to accept the world as it is.
DeWolfe recalled the George Bernard Shaw quote that was more famously paraphrased by Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign: “Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
“You are the doers, the dreamers, the disruptors,” he told the Class of 2016 in closing. “So let’s get out and reboot the way Americans and the rest of the world do things. Let’s get out there, Foster graduates, and ask, why not?”