SEATTLE – Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was his usual ebullient self as he spoke before tens of thousands Saturday afternoon.
Only instead of an audience of developers or company partners, his audience consisted of the thousands of students graduating from the University of Washington and their friends and family.
Ballmer was the speaker at the University of Washington’s 139th commencement ceremony Saturday, where he also received an honorary doctor of science degree from the school.
He immediately got the crowd of some 5,300 students and 40,000 supporters cheering when he exhorted the graduating students to give themselves a round of applause.
“This class is graduating at perhaps the best time in history,” he said. “You have the greatest opportunities in front of you of any class ever.” Then, tweaking the enthusiastic “Developers! Developers! Developers!” catchphrase that he became famous for while leading Microsoft, he told the students: “Opportunity! Opportunity! Opportunity! It awaits you.”
Ballmer kept his speech short, referring only briefly to his retirement from Microsoft earlier this year, and to his top bid for the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team last month.
Ballmer referred to some student speakers who had said they didn’t know what life would hold for them.
“I am 58 years old and I, too, don’t know what I’m doing again,” Ballmer said, laughing.
He urged the students to seize the day. “Opportunities are there. But you have to grab them. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.”