One of the first talks at South by Southwest 2019 featured one of the country's most wealthy women giving a rare public talk on International Women's Day.
Though Priscilla Chan is best known as the wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, her talk, hosted by "CNN Newsroom" anchor Poppy Harlow, was squarely focused on her work on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has pledged 99 percent of the couple's riches to philanthropic causes at the intersection of tech and research.
Harlow interviewed Chan previously on CNN.
Chan -- a former teacher and pediatrician and a mother of two -- spent half her session at the Hilton Austin Downtown giving a formal presentation about three projects the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has backed. Summit Learning, in education, Meta (which she described as "Spotify for science") and Last Mile in criminal justice are three projects she said are using tech to make positive change in key areas that affect children and families. She began her talk by talking up her first visit to Austin and South by Southwest, describing her taco emoji-filled reactions to finally attending the cool kids' party.
The tone shifted dramatically about midway through when Chan sat down with Harlow and opened up about how her own background as the child of Vietnamese refugees shaped her trajectory and her goal of improving the lives of children.
Visibly emotional, Chan praised her parents and grandparents for giving her a future here.
"They didn't know anything about America. They knew that this country offered opportunities," she said.
Making it clear that Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not Facebook, nor is it the PR arm of the popular social network, Chan said that the foundation is trying to lead by example by showing empathy in the programs it chooses to focus on and is working on diversity in its own ranks. She said the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has more than 51 percent women in its tech arm and said its representation of underserved minorities in the 30-40 percent range.
To those fatigued by announcements for 2020, Chan said she is not running for president, but does feel that those who have wealth should pay more in taxes.
"I think for people who can afford it, paying higher taxes is not a bad thing. We should be doing it," she said. "We should be thoughtful about how we can get more important resources for these systems" such as the National Institutes of Health, which she said does a good job prioritizing how to spend federal money.
Chan, who was spared a grilling on any of the major privacy issues her husband's company is facing, acknowledged that she's been very lucky in her life but advised others to think about what they can contribute to making a better world.
"Give back to make it so we don't need luck," she said.