I’ve been struck – and thrilled –  lately by the wave of young people who are eager to ” belong to something bigger than themselves,” who are committed to contributing something of themselves (beyond money) to “do good” – and improve the world. And interestingly, companies eager to hire these talented, young people will need to offer opportunities to do just that – both inside and outside their particular businesses. This past Wednesday evening I was lucky enough to attend the NYC Gala for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. It’s a spectacular organization, founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Robert Taft, Jr. and a great guy whom I met Wednesday night, named Samuel Beard, to recognize ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of reward or recognition. The Jefferson Awards Foundation, among other things,  inspires and celebrates young people under the age of twenty-five to invent wonderful, outrageously creative solutions to solve some of the world’s most pressing and persistent problems.

During the evening, I learned about a young man who, through his “Pencils for Promise” program, has built more than 250 schools world-wide with the help of volunteers and local villagers. And then there were the two young co-founders of “Warm Winters,” who at the age of eleven, started a program to donate winter clothing to the homeless. By collecting clothes from the lost and found bins at ski resorts, their program has helped more than twenty-five hundred people keep warm so far. The stories go on and on…

The morning after the event, the unforgettable last four words of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to the Stanford class of 2005, hit me square in the heart. I know you remember them,  too: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” All I could think of was what a kick Jobs would get out of these passionate young  people – and how proud he’d be to know them.

It’s hard to believe that speech was delivered nearly a decade ago (only six years before Jobs’ death) and yet his words ring even more true for me today than they did then – which is saying a lot. He’d first read those four words on the back cover of the final edition of  The Whole Earth Catalog which Jobs described as  “…a   brilliant, honest, idealistic publication {and}…one of the bibles of my generation.” That’s when he was the age of the Stanford students – and the Jefferson Foundation Awards recipients…

The Whole Earth Catalog was created in the late sixties by Stuart Brand, who, Jobs said, “…brought it to life with his poetic touch.” Made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras, Jobs described it as “…sort of like Goggle in paperback form, thirty-five years before Google came along. It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.”

But by the mid-seventies,  The Whole Earth Catalog had run its course. On the back cover of the final issue was “…a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous,” Jobs told the students.  “Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’ And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.”

I wish if for myself, too. And I wish it for you and for all our young people…now. Now, when the need for optimism, innovation, (to “begin anew”) and the kind of “foolish” ideas that can completely change the course of events – in a country, a company, a family - or even a life – have never been so desperately needed. To never be satisfied, never be complacent, never be “done,” or heaven forbid, never to “settle” –  but rather to be perpetually “hungry;” to be so  excited about and  committed to...a  possibility: a new product, a new approach, a new solution, a new cure, a new way to improve the world – that you’re willing to  look like a  fool for the sheer thrill of bringing it to life - is, in the end, what it’s all about, isn’t it?

You don’t have to be under twenty-five or even under seventy-five. Just write these four words as a note in your iPhone, on your desktop, on your bathroom mirror, or on a piece of paper you can stuff into your pocket. Four words that remind you every single day that  you’re the one to think of it, develop it, drive it, stand for it…and ultimately rejoice in it. 


Maybe you’d like to take another look….


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