Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells MIT grads "it's about people"
Commencement speaker says the greatest opportunities are for humans, not technology


“I encourage you to choose the third option — to be clear-eyed optimists, to see that building technology that supports equality, democracy, truth, and kindness means looking around corners and throwing up every possible roadblock against hate, violence, and deception.”

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

When MIT Commencement speaker and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg asked the 999 undergraduates and 1,821 graduate students who were about to receive their degrees to raise their hands if they knew exactly what they wanted to do for a career, quite a few hands shot up.

“That’s impressive,” she said, speaking on a sunny Friday in Killian Court. “I did not.” In fact, as she recalled, she went through quite a few different kinds of jobs and was sure of just one thing: She didn’t want to go into business or technology.

“Things won’t always end up as you think,” she said. “But you will gain valuable lessons along life’s uncertain path.” She described one such lesson that she learned in her very first job after graduation, working in a leprosy treatment center in India.

Technically, the problem of leprosy had already been solved, she said. The disease can be easily diagnosed and is totally curable now, yet the age-old stigma attached to the disease remained, and many patients hid themselves from view rather than seeking care. The needed breakthrough came not just from medical technology, but from community leaders, she said.

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Archived webcast of Commencement

MIT Commencement photos and video

President L. Rafael Reif