An Appreciation: Steve Jobs


For a simple and elegant statement of how Steve Jobs touched us all, it was incredible to witness friends’ Facebook reactions to the news that Jobs succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. There were Apple logos digitally altered to shed tears, hilarious grainy photos of an early adopter’s first clunky desktop computer (“This is about where I got on board – 27 years ago. Thanks, Steve!”), and more than a few photos showing a fan’s multiple Apple products lined up in tribute to their late creator: iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone and iPod. As someone who spends most of her day glued to one or another Apple products, I bow to the insight that each one of our lives could be transformed by a personal computer. Never mind his brilliant product design and marketing genius, Steve Jobs gave us each the gift of creative potential.

Articles about Jobs are legion since his death – many are worth perusing, and kids will particularly enjoy photos of the early computers. For the sake of some profound dinner table conversations — that is until you tackle his brand new bestselling biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, which is fabulous — here are a few bits of Jobs lore to help you teach your kids about a man whose legacy they are already living. The first is a blog piece discussing the breadth of Jobs’ influence on film, from the birth of computer animation and the plethora of screens from which our digital kids use to consume media. Go rent Toy Story this weekend and marvel at Pixar’s early masterpiece.The second is Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech in 2005. NPR posted the speech in its entirety on it’s site. Below the video, you will find a link to a printed version of the speech.

In his Stanford address, Jobs compiles the many lessons of his own life into three stories. Each of you will find your own teachable moments in the 15-minute video. (Younger kids won’t find the actual speech as compelling as teens). Jobs’ ability to regroup after being fired from the company he founded is a prime example of resilience and recovery. As much as parents hate to watch their kids experience failure, learning to bounce back from disappointment is a critical life skill. Jobs’ single-minded pursuit of his passion reminds us how important it is to help children find their own passions…whether we understand them or not. And, finally, while Jobs’ words that echo most eerily today are not really apt for children (as in the quote above, he is eloquent about how facing death teaches us to live more fully), these sentiments resonate deeply in our parental bones and remind us to pursue our dreams and to embrace what is truly important in life.

Walter Isaacson’s biography makes a great book on tape for a long car ride, or as a holiday gift for nearly anyone on your list. It’s a fully rounded portrait of an irascible and brilliant man – you’ll feel like you know him, warts and all. Finally, Steve’s sister Mona Simpson wrote a beautiful eulogy for his memorial service, which was reprinted in the NY Times.  Wait until you get to the last line.