The issue isn't that people don't care about the world's ills, Gates argued, it's that they don't know what to do to resolve them.
"Even with the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news, it is still a complex enterprise to get people to truly see the problem," he said. Using computers, the Internet, and breakthroughs in biotechnology, Gates believes that people can begin to cut through the complex problems of poverty and disease and start to improve lives.
Gates challenged both Harvard University and its graduating students.
For Harvard, he encouraged the academics to think about applying more of their resources to dealing with the world's issues and to ensure that their students left the college educated about global poverty, hunger, and the prevalence of curable diseases that continue to kill millions of children.
For students, he exhorted each of them to embrace one of the world's complex issues and become a specialist on it, whether that issue becomes the focus of their career or more of a part-time passion. "Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists," Gates said. "Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives."