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Zuckerberg to Harvard grads: Choose a purpose, not a career

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one of the Ivy League school's most famous dropouts, tells graduates it's this generation's turn to do great work.

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One of the world's most famous college dropouts finally got his degree. Sort of.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg received an honorary degree on Thursday from his former school, Harvard University, where he also delivered a commencement speech to the class of 2017.

Instead of his customary gray T-shirt, Zuckerberg sported a suit and tie during the speech and, sounding at times presidential, told the grads to have a "sense of purpose."

"Purpose is a feeling when you are bigger than yourself," he said. "Purpose creates true happiness. Let's do big things not only to create progress but purpose."

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Mark Zuckerberg, with his honorary Harvard University degree, is flanked by his parents, Edward and Karen Zuckerberg.

Facebook

Earlier, the 33-year-old Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself to Facebook, posing with his new doctoral degree and his parents. The pic garnered more than a million likes. Zuck was among 10 public figures receiving honorary degrees, including Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench and acclaimed actor James Earl Jones, perhaps best known as the voice of Darth Vader in "Star Wars."

It's been well-documented that Zuckerberg created Facebook inside his tiny dorm room at Harvard before leaving the school 12 years ago. His experiment has now grown into the world's largest social network, with nearly 2 billion users. The Ivy League university is also where he met his wife, Priscilla Chan. The two are expecting their second child.

Zuckerberg's rouser to the Harvard grads comes at a time when he's considered one of the most influential people in the world. But it also comes as Facebook continues to generate unflattering headlines. Besides being criticized for the rise of fake news and, arguably, for helping Donald Trump win the US presidential election, the social network is under fire for the livestreaming of violence, murder and even revenge porn on its Facebook Live service.

Still, the Harvard address culminates an eventful week for Zuckerberg, who spent much time reminiscing around the campus. On Tuesday, he livestreamed a 22-minute video from his old dorm room, which was watched by about 2 million people.

On Thursday, he encouraged his fellow millennials to take on meaningful projects.

"In our society, we often don't take on big things because we're so afraid of making mistakes that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing," he said. "The reality is, anything we do today is going to have some issues in the future, but that can't stop us from getting started.

"So what are we waiting for? It is time for our generation-defining great works."

Then Zuckerberg posed a question: What if they don't know where to start?

"Well, let me tell you a secret, no one does when they begin. Ideas don't come out fully formed, they only become clear as you work on them," he said. "You just have to get started."

He also told the grads to be prepared on being called "misunderstood" and "crazy," especially if they have a good idea.

Zuckerberg's speech leaned heavily on his manifesto, a 6,000-word open letter he wrote in February on how he wants Facebook to help build a better world. He repeatedly told the Harvard grads that even global change starts small, but that it can be brought about.

He said the graduates have the "ability to build communities, to create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose." And he issued a challenge.

"Class of 2017," he said, "you are graduating into a world that needs purpose, and it's up to you to create it."

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