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May 22, 2012

Eric Schmidt Gives Old School Speech to BU Class of 2012

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

Google (News - Alert) executive Eric Schmidt addressed his “honorary” alma mater last Sunday in a speech that was prolifically tweeted. The message Schmidt gave to the graduates of Boston University, that has been most quoted by the press is, “Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person you love.” Schmidt added, “Have a conversation. A real conversation.”

This is not to say that Schmidt does not endorse social media. In fact, he believes that social media contributes to the “fulfillment of the American Dream.” He recognized this generation as having technological tools that are “a distinctive feature of your world,” and that people now, “can be unique while being completely connected.” But because Eric Schmidt (News - Alert) presented a "challenge" to spend at least an hour a day without technology tools, Schmidt was trying to say three different things: This is not an easy task to ask of this generation. Such dependence is probably unhealthy, and don't think of me as the Google wizard -- think of me as a person.

Instead of addressing pressing business topics like Facebook’s IPO or offering advice on business policies, Schmidt gave the traditional sentimental advice of educators to reach high, don’t underestimate yourself and don’t be afraid to fail. Perhaps this doctrine came from Schmidt’s former experience as a part time professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

If the graduating class were to reflect on who Eric Schmidt was as a man around their age, they would see a studious, hard-working man who earned degrees from Princeton and UC Berkely. They would see a picture of him in thick glasses and not his striking resemblance to Mark Zuckerberg (News - Alert). It must have been hard to envision this, however, when he stated in the commencement speech to “turn that thing off.” In fact, this is an unexpected remark from an executive of Google.

But despite Eric Schmidt’s attempts to reach past the superficial aspects of technology and reach the warm aspects of organic communication, he betrayed his out-of-touch dad act when he guessed that, “Some of you are probably tweeting this speech right now.” You better believe it. Under #BU2012.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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