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Mark Zuckerberg's Zeal For Immigration Reform Was Inspired By A Middle Schooler

Mark ZuckerbergZuckerberg spoke with James Bennet of the Atlantic yesterday

In a conversation with
Atlantic editor in chief James Bennet yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg talked about
FWD.us, the advocacy group he foundedthat helps push for immigration reform.

The Facebook co-founder and CEO spoke to the mission, but mentioned an interesting detail about how the organisation came to be: it started with a conversation with a 13-year-old student.

“My wife [Priscilla] just graduated from medical school to become a pediatrician, so our dinner conversations are usually about two things: Facebook and kids,” Zuckerberg chuckled to the crowd. He joked that while he could probably avoid the topic of starting their own family (“at least for now”), Priscilla had always urged that they strive to do more than just donate their money to organisations they care about.

“We’re not just going to be people who write checks but have never taught anything ourselves,” Zuckerberg said, quoting his wife.

So the two set up an after-school class in East Menlo Park, CA to teach middle school kids about entrepreneurship. Each week he goes over one skill, and each group has a side project. When the class ends, the students come to Facebook headquarters and market the products they’ve created.

But as Zuckerberg became impressed with the skillset of the kids he was teaching, he also noticed something that worried him. When he asked his students if they were planning on going to college, his top student raised his hand said he didn’t think he would be able to go to college; he was undocumented.

“It blew my mind,” Zuckerberg told the Atlantic, “that student is going to be the entrepreneur of tomorrow. This is a big deal. The more I looked into it…the more unfair it seemed.”

So Zuckerberg talked to CEOs of other tech companies to get FWD.us off the ground and found most of them cared about the same issues he did.

“Before FWD.US there hasn’t been a single political organisation that is funding both Democrats and Republicans [pushing for immigration reform]. It’s a novel structure.”

You can watch Zuckerberg’s full interview below:

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