Steve Jobs PragmaticMom Pragmatic Mom Stanford Commencement Speech

Remembering Steve Jobs

How Steve Jobs Changed My Life (Even Though I Didn’t Know Him)

My first computer was the very first MacIntosh when I was in college. My two classmates and I learned Pagemaker 1.0 and built a business from this that grew  into a multi-national company. I remember how aghast I was when I heard that Jobs had been kicked out of Apple during the John Scully days. And how Scully’s 30/30/30 plan resulted in Corporate America switch from the Mac to the PC.

I rooted for Jobs at Pixel and exalted at his return to Apple. And then the  fun really began. For him, no doubt, but for us, the consumer, as well. We own many, many Apple products and couldn’t imagine a world without gorgeous but intuitive industrial design that is the hallmark of Apple’s products. Steve Jobs; you will be deeply missed.

How will we go on without you? We can’t turn back now to ugly and confusing interfaces or desktops that look clunky. We still need an iPad that works for WordPress for us bloggers … smaller, lighter, and slimmer. We need things that we don’t even realize we need. That was the genius of you. Your way of thinking. The products that you dreamed up. There will never be another you.

This is Jobs’ commencement speech to the Stanford University graduating class of 2005. I guess we will have to take his words to heart and carry on in hopes that this  inspires the next Steve Jobs. If that is even possible.

“My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: ‘We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?’ They said: ‘Of course.’

“My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

“And 17 years later I did go to college.

“But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

“It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example.

“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.”


At the end of the speech, his advice to the students went like this:


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, “which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. 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.

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”


To view the book he recommends at Amazon, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. This is so well written. I am very saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs and reading this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

    • To Meaghan,
      Thank you so much! I have to say that I am crushed by Steve Jobs passing though I suppose that it should have been more obvious how ill he was Still, it feels like an era is over and that was such a great era too!

  2. "get article pro"

    steve jobs is one of the main reason you can read this post from the computer screen, RIP steve

  3. Ginac

    I’m honored to have lived in Steve Jobs’ time. He has been compared with Thomas Edison, another great American iconoclast who changed the way people lived. Although we’ll all miss the enthusiasm Steve had on stage for his amazing Apple gadgets, his true gift to the world was his entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks, Steve, for changing the world.

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