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Zuckerberg’s Newark donation sets noble precedent

It seems like an easy path to success: Drop out of Harvard, start a tech company, make enormous amounts of money, and then start giving it away. Bill Gates pioneered that particular lifestyle, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seems to be following the same path, albeit a couple of decades younger. On Sept. 22, Zuckerberg announced that he was donating $100 million to the Newark, N.J. school district. We applaud this act of philanthropy as a model for executives everywhere.

The Newark school district has been trying for years to improve its graduation rates. According to the U.S. Census, in 2003 only 64 percent of adults 25 and older in the city had high school diplomas. The system’s annual budget is about $800 million, so Zuckerberg’s contribution can have a considerable effect on the futures of Newark students. His donation could enable children raised in areas of poverty and crime to succeed in school, go to college, and better their lives.

Some critics of Zuckerberg have claimed that the donation was an effort to improve his public image before The Social Network, a film presenting a creative interpretation of the founding of Facebook, was released Friday.

Even if critics’ accusations were true and the donation had ulterior motives, the students of Newark helped by Zuckerberg’s philanthropy probably would not care, and neither would we. In donating this money, Zuckerberg has shown an awareness of social issues and a willingness to address them that is rare in a 26-year-old.

According to Facebook spokespeople and Newark political leaders, the donation had nothing to do with The Social Network. In fact, Zuckerberg wanted to make the donation anonymously and had to be convinced otherwise by the mayor of Newark and governor of New Jersey, according to interviews in Forbes magazine.

While we have often criticized Facebook’s philosophy on privacy, we can only commend its founder’s newly apparent philosophy on philanthropy. Zuckerberg should continue to support worthy causes, and in doing so set an example for other young executives.