Wearing jeans and sandals under his black robe, Mr. Jobs told some 23,000 people in the stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. of his early childhood days, his struggle to make Apple a success, and his thoughts on mortality after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2004.
"I didnit see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me," Mr. Jobs said. "It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life."
Mr. Jobs began by reminding graduates of dropping out of college and that Sundayis ceremony was the closest he had ever gotten to a university graduation.
He admitted his biological mother was an unwed graduate student who had planned to have him adopted and that his adoptive parents did not have college degrees. Although his parents paid for his college courses from Reed College in Portland, Ore., Mr. Jobs said he dropped out to save money and concentrate on topics that interested him most, such as a calligraphy course that later inspired him to design different fonts in the first Macintosh.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs walks out of Stanford Stadium after delivering the commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class. (photo courtesy Standford University)
"If I had never dropped out I might never have dropped in on that calligraphy," Mr. Jobs said. He said he lived off 5-cent soda recycling deposits and free food offered by Hare Krishnas while taking classes.
"It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward," Mr. Jobs said. "You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."
Mr. Jobs admitted that his success at Apple and NeXT wouldnit have happened "if I hadnit been fired from Apple. Iim convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did...I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the valley. It was awful tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it."
The 50 year old Mr. Jobs turned serious when talking about his fight with cancer last year, admitting doctors expected him to live no longer than six months.
"Your time is limited, so donit waste it living someone elseis life," he commented. "Donit let the noise of othersi opinions drown out your own inner voice...Remembering you are going to die is the best way to avoid the fear that you have something to lose."
Mr. Jobs underwent surgery last August and said he has fully recovered.