Leadership

This is what Melinda Gates said in her high school graduation speech, and it's still inspiring

Bill and Melinda Gates
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Melinda Gates and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are well-known for their philanthropic efforts through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But before the power-duo philanthropists were spending billions on everything from wiping out diseases to lifting people out of poverty, Melinda was touting a similar message at her own high school graduation.

On Thursday, in the spirit of "throwback Thursday," Melinda Gates tweeted a photo, captioning it, "With two of my kids graduating this year, I went back and found the speech I gave at my own high school commencement. Decades later, I still stand by what I said. Here's the last page. #TBT"

Back then, Gates was known as Melinda French and was speaking at the 1982 commencement at Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas. Now her daughter, Jennifer, 22, is slated to graduate from Stanford University in June, while her son, Rory, 19, is expected to graduate from high school a few days before his sister.

The page of the speech she shared reads:

"If you are successful it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember, also, that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped."

Gates' high school self would likely be proud of the woman she's become; she certainly practices what she preaches.

The Gates family has experienced serious financial success — Bill Gates has a net worth of $92.7 billion. But they are arguably most well-known for their persistence in paying it forward. In fact, it's been reported that Bill Gates would have been the richest person in the world, beating out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, if he did not give so much of his fortune away.

Bill and Melinda Gates established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, and have since worked on a slew of philanthropic causes, including investing in vaccines to prevent infectious diseases to helping break down barriers for economic opportunity. Since its inception through the end of 2016, the foundation has made $41.3 billion total grant payments.

Melinda Gates serves as the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and ranked third on Forbes' 2017 Power Women list. She previously told CNBC Meets that she initially tried to be in a more behind-the-scenes role at the foundation, but ultimately found that her voice held incredible value.

"I can bring a perspective that's different than Bill's. I can bring these voices forward, and so I started to speak more publicly," Gates said.

Recently, Gates gave some additional advice to young people, when asked by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg what she'd tell her teenage self: "Trust yourself. You probably know more than you think you do," Gates said in February.

And on May 24, in an essay for Time, Gates spoke directly to those advising the next generation of young people, writing that she hopes commencement speeches this year reflect not just encouragement, but what the speakers themselves "plan to do to ensure that vision of the future has a place in it for every graduate."

"Any commencement speaker can encourage young people to live up to their potential. But these graduates deserve more than encouragement; they deserve action," Gates writes. "This spring, I'll be listening with special attention to the leaders whose speeches reflect that."

Don't miss: Bill Gates is paying off this country's $76 million debt

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