Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Craigslist founder urges activism in UC Berkeley commencement speech

BERKELEY — Playing to the University of Califoirnia, Berkeley's liberal reputation, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark told graduating seniors Tuesday that they will be responsible for "rebuilding" the country after President Bush's term ends.

In a rambling and mostly off-the-cuff speech under a hot afternoon sun, Newmark said he no longer has the energy to save the world but has been encouraged by the drive of the younger generation.

"The bad news is I'm going to ask you to do it," he said. "The good news is you're already doing it."

Newmark founded the eponymous Web site in 1995 as an e-mail list for friends and family members in the Bay Area. It has since become one of the country's most popular Web sites.

Predictably, other speakers at Tuesday's event joked about Craigslist's reputation as a site for arranging sexual liaisons. Darek DeFreece, president of the California Alumni Association, noted the variety of services the site has provided.

"Thanks to you, I've bought something, I've sold something, I've had a missed connection and I've had a casual encounter," he said, referring to categories on the site. "And a couple of other things I can't mention."

About 6,800 seniors were expected to graduate this month, along with about 3,000 graduate students.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told graduates not to worry too much about getting jobs, and some in the crowd seemed to be taking his advice.

"They say Advertisementwhen you graduate from a top school, it makes it easier to get a job," said Kelly Gilliam, a 27-year-old senior from Newport Beach. "We'll see. We feel like we're prepared for the real world."

Like Newmark, Birgeneau also had a political message for the graduates. Undocumented immigrants should be allowed to receive state and federal financial aid to attend college, he said.

"I urge you to urge politicians, both in Sacramento and in Washington, to remove this disgrace from the American landscape," Birgeneau said, attracting scattered applause.

Newmark, meanwhile, urged graduates to use the Internet to become more politically active. Social-networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace can help people connect for good causes, he said.

The November presidential election could be a showcase for the class of 2008, he said.

"I do want you to get out and vote," Newmark said. "I hear that only half of you are doing that, and I really need the other half of you to do that."

The ceremony began with a moment of silence for nuclear-engineering senior Christopher Wootton, who was fatally stabbed May 3. He had been scheduled to graduate this month.

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