Life

Jeff Bezos wishes his 4th grade teacher a happy 80th birthday in this sweet video: ‘Great teachers do change lives’

Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, according to Forbes, with a net worth of more than $120 billion. In addition to running the e-commerce behemoth Amazon, he is also the founder of aerospace company, Blue Origin.

He has been, by any measure, massively successful.

But Bezos hasn't forgotten the people who helped him get there. In a sweet video message, he took a moment to pay homage to his fourth grade teacher, Celestine Barnes, who inspired and supported him along his journey.

Barnes taught Bezos at the River Oaks Elementary School in Houston, Texas.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Lindsey Wasson | Reuters
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Barnes' daughter, Jenise Raven, worked for weeks to get Bezos' attention ahead of her mother's 80th birthday, according to a report from local Houston news station KHOU 11. Raven was hoping Bezos might send a card.

Instead, Bezos said happy birthday via the video embedded above. Raven played the video at her mother's party on Saturday. KHOU 11 published a piece about the video Monday and Amazon provided the video to CNBC Make It.

In the video, Bezos says:

"Hi Mrs. Barnes, it's Jeff Bezos. You were one of my favorite teachers back in elementary school. I remember you from 4th grade very well. You may not recognize me, I had more hair back then, but I sure remember you. You had a big impact on me. I heard you were turning 80. That's a big milestone! Congratulations and happy birthday. I learned a lot at River Oaks. You were definitely one of my favorite teachers. Thank you for making 4th grade so special for me and for all the other kids too. I know you've been more than 30 years as a teacher and principal. You've had a big impact on people's lives. Great teachers do change lives. We were all incredibly lucky to have you. Happy birthday, Mrs. Barnes!"

"I need [my mom] to know that she's special, not only to me, but to all the people she touched throughout her journey," says Raven, speaking to KHOU 11 News. "I'm so appreciative and so grateful and so humbled by this whole experience."

Barnes was surprised and happy.

"I was thrilled. I see a lot of my students in different roles, former students. Jeff is one who has been really outstanding, and I'm pleased to see him," says Barnes to KHOU 11. "This has been fabulous. I didn't know all this was going on. I'm amazed to no end. I'm truly thankful and grateful."

Bezos remembered summers in Texas in his commencement speech at Princeton in 2010. He recounted learning a lesson from his grandfather, that it is harder to be "kind" than it is to be "clever."

"Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they're given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you're not careful, and if you do, it'll probably be to the detriment of your choices," says Bezos in his graduation speech.

"When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices," says Bezos.

See also:

How Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went from the son of a teen mom to the world's richest person

Mark Zuckerberg on starting Facebook at 19: 'I've made almost every mistake you can imagine'

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