Kind or Clever?

Jeff Bezos, the hugely successful CEO of Amazon, recalled a trip he took with his grandparents when he was 10 years old. While riding in their Airstream trailer, this precocious 10-year-old laboriously calculated the damage to her health that his grandmother was doing by smoking. His conclusion was that, at two minutes per puff, she was taking nine years off her life. When he proudly told her of his finding, she burst into tears. His grandfather stopped the car and gently said to Jeff, “One day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

Bezos went on to distinguish between gifts and choices. “Cleverness,” he said, “is a gift. Kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given, after all. Choices can be hard.” He then challenged the graduating students to think carefully about their future range of choices: “Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”

(Taken from the article "Increasing the Value of a Liberal Education")