Commencement marks that fleeting moment when students embark on the next chapter of their sweeping journey.
It may not feel so ephemeral for graduates as they sit for what feels like an eternity, waiting to hear a name echo out across the crowd. But then the world speeds up: there’s the handshake (sometimes hug), the applause, and that triumphant first step off the stage. Those moments really do go at the speed of light.
But before all of the pomp and circumstance (and picture taking), we’d like to devote the rest of the post to share the timeless wisdom of some commencement speakers from years past (thanks to Humanity.org and Time.com):
TONI MORRISON, Wellesley 2004
“A citizen and a person, and the person you are is like nobody else on the planet. Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all what you are capable of knowing. You are your own stories and therefore free to imagine and experience what it means to be human without wealth. What it feels like to be human without domination over others, without reckless arrogance, without fear of others unlike you, without rotating, rehearsing and reinventing the hatreds you learned in the sandbox. And although you don’t have complete control over the narrative (no author does, I can tell you), you could nevertheless create it.”
STEVE JOBS, Stanford 2005
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition … Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”
BARBARA KINGSOLVER, Duke 2008
“The arc of history is longer than human vision. It bends. We abolished slavery, we granted universal suffrage. We have done hard things before. And every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, ‘We already did. We have made the world new.’ The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on.”
CONAN O’BRIEN, Harvard 2000
“So, that’s what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over.”
BRADLEY WHITFORD, Wisconsin 2006
“You will inevitably make mistakes. Learn what you can and move on. At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not by your stumble.”
MERYL STREEP, Barnard 2010
“As Jung said, emotion is the chief source of becoming conscious. There can be no transforming of lightness into dark, of apathy into movement, without emotion. Or as Leonard Cohen says, pay attention to the cracks because that’s where the light gets in.”
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, Williams College 2005
“Your parents love you more than you will ever know. So if you take one lesson away from this talk, take this one: Call your Mama, regularly. And your Papa. You will always be glad you did.”
DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, Kenyon University 2005
“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience Because if you cannot and will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
Congrats to all of our Class of 2012 graduates!