Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

« Previous Post | Jacket Copy Home | Next Post »

Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos speaks to Princeton grads

May 31, 2010 | 10:10 am


On Sunday, Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos told Princeton seniors that kindness is a choice and urged them to think about their choices. "Our talk today is about the difference between gifts and choices," Bezos said. "Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with choices." The Times of Trenton reports: 

"I took the less safe path to follow my passion and I'm proud of that choice," Bezos said. "As your life begins, how will you use your gifts? What choices will you make? Will inertia be your guide or will you follow your passions? Will you follow dogma or will you be original? Will you choose a life of ease or a life of service and adventure?"

Bezos is a Princeton alumnus -- he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1986, earning degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He left a career on Wall Street to found Amazon.com in 1994.

He told the students and their families that "all the curious from the ages," including Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton, would want to be alive in our moment of technology and invention. But Bezos, whose company got its start with books, turned not to technology but to narrative to make his point. From the Times of Trenton report:

"I will hazard a prediction," he told the university's class of 2010. "When you are 80 years old and you are in a quiet moment of reflection, narrating for only yourself the most personal versions of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you made."

"In the end, we are our choices," he said. "Build yourself a great story."

He spoke at Princeton's 263rd baccalaureate, an interfaith ceremony that included an external speaker; the speech, which streamed, will later be archived online. Princeton students graduate on Tuesday.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jeff Bezos speaking to Amazon.com shareholders on Tuesday. Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press