Steve Wozniak delivers commencement address to class of 2013

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was the commencement speaker at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Kevin Foote/File
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was the commencement speaker at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

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Apple Inc. co-founder and entrepreneur Steve Wozniak delivered the commencement address to UC Berkeley’s class of 2013 on Saturday, recounting his time as a student on campus and imparting advice to about 3,900 graduating seniors and 21,000 other attendees.

In the first commencement at Memorial Stadium in more than 40 years, Wozniak encouraged students to stick to their principles and take risks. He also spoke his mind on a wide array of topics, from the tassels on graduates’ caps to his philosophy about happiness.

“H equals S minus F,” Wozniak said. “Happiness equals smiles minus frowns. That’s what life’s about.”

His most resonant advice, however, was more concrete.

“You’ve got to trust in yourself and know what your internal passion is,” he said. “And that’s what’ll drive you to success. When you have success, are you going to become a different person? … Or are your ideals going to be with you forever?

“Now’s your time to change the world and to think different,” he added.

After meeting Steve Jobs in high school, Wozniak matriculated to UC Berkeley in 1970 but withdrew a year later, eventually founding Apple with Jobs in 1976. He returned to the campus years later, earning his degree in electrical engineering and computer sciences in 1986.

Wozniak is the latest in a line of prominent commencement speakers, including Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt in 2012, former White House chief of and then-U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright in 2000. Wozniak was chosen to speak by a survey of graduating seniors earlier this year, according to Lila Blanco, associate director of university events and ceremonies.

The speech drew generally positive reviews from the graduates and parents in attendance.

“It’s really cool how someone that successful came from Berkeley — and to see that he took so many risks to get where he’s at right now,” said graduating senior Jaron Liclican. “That’s what’s important for all of us here, all of us graduates. The next step is taking that risk and doing that which inspires you the most — your dreams.”

But other students were disappointed by what they perceived as Wozniak’s reluctance to tell students uncomfortable truths.

“His speech is very postmodern,” said graduating senior John Knox. “It is something that’s very fitting for our generation that likes to pave its own path and decide its own truth. It seemed pretty hedonistic.”

Wozniak was not the only speaker on Saturday. Outgoing Chancellor Robert Birgeneau opened the ceremony with a speech that trumpeted the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the graduating class, noting the university’s policy of offering aid to undocumented students.

Following Wozniak’s speech, 18-year-old graduate Ritankar Das received the University Medal, an award given to each year’s top graduating senior. Das graduated with a double major in bioengineering and chemical biology and has earned a 3.99 GPA.

“His accomplishments are just incredible,” said graduating senior Raquel Valles. “He’s really an inspiration.”

Contact Chris Yoder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @christiancyoder.

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