Doctor and educator Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, announced the birth of their baby on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in a powerful letter to their new daughter, Max.
It wasn’t just a letter to the beloved little girl, rather a letter to the world she’s becoming a part of.
Zuckerberg published the letter on Facebook, titled “A letter to our daughter.” In it, he describes a number of initiatives Facebook is working on to improve the world—referencing how important it is to connect people via the Internet, and alluding to projects like Internet.org and the company’s educational projects announced earlier this year.
The letter was also a heartfelt admission and plea to current and future generations to understand the impacts things like education, technology, healthcare, and equality can have on our world and people’s quality of life in it.
“We believe all lives have equal value, and that includes the many more people who will live in future generations than live today,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here. But right now, we don’t always collectively direct our resources at the biggest opportunities and problems your generation will face.”
The philanthropist couple wants to give their daughter and the generation she belongs to a better world than the one we’re living in. Through a substantial financial investment, Chan and Zuckerberg aim to change the world.
To that end, the couple launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an organization that aims to make long term investments and focus on issues like personalized learning for students around the world, curing disease, and building stronger communities.
The couple has pledged to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares, or about $45 billion, to the cause throughout their lives.
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Zuckerberg’s letter was a poignant reflection on the challenges and opportunities society faces. Two big ideas anchored the CEO’s emotional communication: advancing human potential and promoting equality.
If you fear you’ll go to prison rather than college because of the color of your skin, or that your family will be deported because of your legal status, or that you may be a victim of violence because of your religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, then it’s difficult to reach your full potential.
These heavy and honest words are unlikely to be found in most parents’ notes to their offspring, but the couple’s public image as two of the most well-known people in the world affords them the opportunity to speak up about what they think is right, and how the people in power and leadership should work to enact change.
At times, the news cycle can be overwhelming. Tragedies like an extremist attacking Planned Parenthood in Colorado, police shooting unarmed black people, terrorist attacks in Paris and throughout the Middle East, and presidential campaigns that are fueling hate and ignorance, can make it feel like the world children like Max are a part of isn’t improving. But there are people everywhere—both public figures with deep pockets, and those who change lives without ever getting the credit—working to ensure we give our children a better world than the one that’s reflected in trending topics on Facebook.
It will take inventing new technology to make the internet more affordable and bring access to unconnected areas. It will take partnering with governments, non-profits and companies. It will take engaging with communities to understand what they need. Good people will have different views on the best path forward, and we will try many efforts before we succeed.
Chan and Zuckerberg are regular advocates of education, healthcare, and equality. The couple donated $25 million to help fight Ebola in 2014; are among the biggest philanthropists in the U.S., giving considerable sums to Silicon Valley organizations; donating $5 million to an immigrant scholarship fund; and Zuckerberg often uses his public Facebook page to broadcast his support for the LGBTQ community. Zuckerberg also recently joined other philanthropists including Bill Gates to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an organization that aims to make tech to address climate change.
Zuckerberg’s letter to his daughter is an essay worth reading. It serves to remind us we’re not alone in our belief and hope for a better future, and that despite the seemingly endless society struggles and polarizing rhetoric, there are tools, resources, and people that are striving to make the world a better place.
Facebook users might not always agree with Zuckerberg or the company’s privacy policies and features, but most will likely agree with Chan and Zuckerberg on this: “Together we can succeed and create a more equal world.”
And that is a sentiment worth sharing for generations to come.
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.