Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have recently announced the birth of their first daughter, Max. They also announced their first birthday present to their daughter: about $45 billion in donations to various charities over the course of their lives to make their daughter’s world a better place.
Zuckerberg really set the standard for Facebook statuses last Wednesday with a post that was eloquent, anecdotal, well-researched, and absolutely heartwarming. He addresses the post to Max and it’s difficult to not imagine America’s youngest billionaire crooning the address to his daughter while she holds onto his thumb.
“Your mother and I don’t yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future.”
The sentiment couldn’t be better timed. Zuckerberg acknowledges the chaotic state of the world and the tragic slant most of our own Facebook posts have taken in the past year. How refreshing it is to step back and remember that, no matter the tone of our feeds, people are still falling in love, becoming parents. And those parents want the same thing for their children as the generation before: better. With the same ferocity.
The new dad urges Max, and anyone else reading the post, to remember that, overall, “[h]ealth is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting.” And while the platitudes would have been enough for most celebrities, Zuckerberg got specific. He lays out six steps that this generation must take to improve the world for the next:
“We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years.”
“We must engage directly with the people we serve.”
“We must build technology to make change.”
“We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates.”
“We must back the strongest and most independent leaders in each field.”
“We must take risks today to learn lessons for tomorrow.”
And then, he announced the founding of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charity designed to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children of the next generation. The 99% of Facebook shares that Zuckerberg has vowed to donate to charity won’t all go to this initiative, but a large portion will. The rest of the allocations have yet to be announced.
As with most good deeds, especially in a world where new media allows us to find the skepticism in nearly any action, there has been criticism. Facebook the corporation is not popular in Europe where many believe American corporations base many operations in order to avoid taxes. There have been discussions, particularly in Germany, that this is a move for a tax break and will encourage capitalist-driven vigilante philanthropy.
And while the cynicism is understandable and the discourse welcome (which is made possible in large part by Facebook), sometimes a good deed doesn’t need to be under the flag of capitalism, socialism, the right, or the left. Sometimes, a good deed is just a family trying to make the world a better place for their daughter.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan could have given their daughter a solid gold crib. Instead, they’re giving Max a better place to live and a lesson that will perpetuate ideals that support a better life.
If that’s not the nicest thing you’ve heard this year, I’ll eat my hat.
Congratulations Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan! And welcome home, Max Zuckerberg Chan. We think you’re gonna like it here.