Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has returned to Harvard University under rainy skies to give a graduation speech and receive an honorary degree.
The world’s fifth-richest person, worth $62.3bn (£48.1bn), famously dropped out of Harvard after launching the global social-networking website.
Mr Zuckerberg called for students to “not only create new jobs, but create a new sense of purpose”.
Political experts think he may be positioning himself to run for office.
During his remarks on Thursday, Mr Zuckerberg told graduates that “we live in an unstable time”.
Zuckerberg, now the youngest commencement speaker in Harvard’s history, started off reliving some of his college memories.
He told the graduates that he was scheduled to speak to the school board after building the website Facemash, an early precursor of Facebook that allowed students to compare the attractiveness of their fellow classmates.
His parents showed up to the school to help him pack up his belongings, and his friends threw him a goodbye party, where he met his future wife Priscilla Chan in line for the bathroom.
Zuckerberg recounted: ‘In what must be one of the all time romantic lines, I said: “I’m going to get kicked out in three days, so we need to go on a date quickly.”
He joked: ‘Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.’
‘I didn’t end up getting kicked out — I did that to myself. Priscilla and I started dating.
‘And, you know, that movie made it seem like Facemash was so important to creating Facebook. It wasn’t. But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.’
During this commencement address, Mr Zuckerberg told students: “There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in ten years when millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business.
“When you don’t have the freedom to take your idea and turn it into a historic enterprise we all lose,” he continued.
He told stories of meeting “children in juvenile detention and opioid addicts, who told me their lives could have turned out differently if they just had something to do”.
Zuckerberg went on to emphasize the importance of changing the world for the better, saying: ‘I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough.
‘The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.’
He went on to say: ‘Today I want to talk about three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose: by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose, and by building community across the world.’
Zuckerberg implored the graduates to tackle ‘generation-defining public works’ like stopping climate change, finding cures for diseases, and ‘modernizing democracy’ so everyone could vote online.
He also emphasized the importance of having ample opportunities to fail, to which he proposed ideas like a universal basic income, affordable childcare, and universal healthcare.
Zuckerberg also spoke about building communities, and relayed his experiences teaching at the local Boys and Girls club at the urging of his wife.
But it wasn’t until the end of his speech that the 33 year old choked back tears recounting his relationship with one of his students.
Zuckerberg said: ‘One day after class I was talking to them about college, and one of my top students raised his hand and said he wasn’t sure he could go because he’s undocumented. He didn’t know if they’d let him in.
‘Last year I took him out to breakfast for his birthday. I wanted to get him a present, so I asked him what he wanted and he started talking about students he saw struggling and said “You know, I’d really just like a book on social justice.”
‘I was blown away. Here’s a young guy who has every reason to be cynical. He didn’t know if the country he calls home – the only one he’s known – would deny him his dream of going to college.
‘But he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself. He wasn’t even thinking of himself. He has a greater sense of purpose, and he’s going to bring people along with him.
‘It says something about our current situation that I can’t even say his name because I don’t want to put him at risk.
‘But if a high school senior who doesn’t know what the future holds can do his part to move the world forward, then we owe it to the world to do our part too.’
“There’s pressure to turn inwards,” he said about those that feel left behind by increased globalisation.
“This is the struggle of our time. The forces of freedom, openness and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism.”
With his wife, Priscilla, in the audience, he pointed to the dormitory where he launched Facebook, and remarked that meeting her there was the best thing to happen to him at the university.
Before giving remarks, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during Harvard’s 366th graduation ceremony.
On Wednesday, he had done a Facebook Live broadcast from his old dorm room.
“This is literally where I sat,” he says, pointing to a small wooden desk and chair inside Kirkland House, which is due to be renovated over the summer.
“I had my little laptop here. And this is where I programmed Facebook,” he tells the camera.
More than 1.9 billion people log onto Facebook every day.
Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has inspired many other social media competitors, including Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
He finished by sharing a prayer he often says for his daughter Maxima Chan Zuckerberg, who was born in 2015.
He said: ‘Before you walk out those gates one last time, as we sit in front of Memorial Church, I am reminded of a prayer, Mi Shebeirach, that I say whenever I face a challenge, that I sing to my daughter thinking about her future when I tuck her into bed.
‘It goes: “May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”
‘I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.’