The hare wins in the end (and gives a far superior speech).
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With his rose-colored glasses firmly in place, Gates peers into the future toward the end of an overly long address and issues this challenge to students:
I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue—a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist on it. If you make it the focus of your career, that would be phenomenal. But you don’t have to do that to make an impact. For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them.
Ah, to think that we might live in a world where Harvard boys are united in spending at least a few minutes or hours a day combating Global Inequities! Utopia must be just around the corner.
As veteran speechwriters in our own right, we would not want to end this article on an ironic and dispiriting note.
Bill Gates does not seem such a cardboard character in Isaacson’s biography of his rival as he does in his Harvard speech. Though lacking in Jobs’s charisma and his outrageous, uncanny, and often hilarious ability to bend other people to his will, Gates does occasionally come to life as a real person and an astute businessman.
Jobs and Gates feuded in the mid-'80s over GUIs, or graphical user interfaces (i.e., the easy-to-use mouse and other features that replaced old-fashioned prompts such as C:/> that required users to type out commands). Jobs worried and raged that Microsoft as an Apple supplier had been stealing Apple’s pioneering and user-friendly technology in this area. Gates countered that Apple had, only a few years earlier, copied the same technology from Xerox PARC. That set the stage for a classic confrontation soon after Gates revealed that he would develop a new operating system for IBM PCs featuring a new point-and-click navigation system (much like Macintosh, introduced two years earlier) that would be called Windows. As Isaacson tells the story:
Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him. Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. “You’re ripping us off!” he shouted. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!” [Andy] Hertzfeld [one of Jobs’s lieutenants] recalled that Gates just sat there coolly, looking Steve in the eye, before hurling back what became a classic zinger. “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
In becoming the industry standard, Windows was Gates’s and Microsoft’s ticket to long-term success—and corporate complacency. Unlike Jobs—the endlessly inventive hare—Gates has never surprised or delighted his customers. Instead, he has kept them in more of a hammerlock—forced to accept succeeding generations of uninspired software with many annoying features.
“I hope you will come back to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your talent and energy,” Gates said in ending his commencement address on a characteristically preachy note. “I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s inequities…on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.”
Jobs, as usual, was more succinct and personal. In the context of another story from his younger days, he told his audience at Stanford:
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?