Commencement Speeches

Commencement Speeches

Commencement Speeches

My column from a few weeks ago invited all of us to take this season of commencement ceremonies as an opportunity to think about the possibility of commencing with something new in our own lives. Many of you wrote to share things you were in the process of starting or are planning on starting soon. Here are a few of the things you shared: doing yoga for the first time, moving to a new city, starting a new job, taking up the piano, learning to grow vegetables, entering a new relationship, planning for retirement, and taking ballroom dance lessons.  

Staying with this theme, I found myself reflecting on the tradition of commencement speeches. These are standard fare for graduation ceremonies and often feature famous people sharing their best wisdom and advice with new graduates as they prepare to enter the world of adulthood. 

Now most of us will probably never be invited to deliver a commencement speech, and so I tried a little experiment this week. I asked dozens of people to imagine what they would say in such a speech, if by chance they were ever invited to deliver one. I asked them to try to sum up their thoughts in one or two sentences.

Below you will find some of the wisdom people shared with me, something they would like to say to graduates beginning a new stage of life. Most of you reading this are probably not currently graduating from school, yet most likely you are beginning something new or different in your life, in one form or another. As you read these wise words, think about what you can learn from each as you embark on that something new in your life. 

You can train your heart and mind to be empathetic, compassionate, and altruistic, if you want. I invite you to want that and to begin training now. (John)

Do what is right, because it's right. If it hurts others, don't do it. Listen, Think, Do. (Mary)

Be authentic....your authentic self. The world doesn't need perfect people. The world needs authentic, real people. (Jan)

This present moment is sacred. Savor it because the next present moment is sacred. (Trawin)

You can find poetry in anything; look, listen, absorb and create your own verse. (Chase)

Recognize life as an unfolding journey of acceptance & letting go - know you are called. Step out then with the understanding you are loved and gifted to be love along your/our shared walk in this world. (Rob)

Work hard. Play hard. Love greatly. Give greatly. And always remember the people around you. (Anna)

Everything in life is an experience, good or bad. The key is how we learn, grow, and improve from all of our experiences. (Dan)

From Shinichi Suzuki, "When love is deep, much can be accomplished." (Kay)

When a loved one tells you, "You are going the wrong way," ask yourself, "Is it better for me to be right in this moment or to be in relationship?" and then be open to the surprise another's direction might have in store for you. (Debra)

We are not here to be served, but to serve. (Beth)

Remember that everything you will accomplish in this world will be as an embodied being. As such, take care of your body, it's for more than simply hauling your head around. (Gary)

Stop being afraid, especially of other people. Be brave in your compassion. (Don)

When someone is lending a hand or offering you support with advice, suggesting you speak with a colleague for encouragement, ; Ask yourself the question, "What is my part in all this? How do I meet them half-way?"  It's a beautiful thing! (Brenda)

Be kind. (Barb)

"Be patient with the whole world. But above all, be patient with yourself." Frances de Sales. (Jason)

"Be kind to everyone you meet for each is fighting a great battle." Phillip of Alexandria, Bishop, 1250 AD (James)

Be kind. Stop from time to time and see the beauty around you. Trust your gut and listen for the spirit. (Catherine)

To paraphrase CS Forester - 'Human nature, dear graduates, is what you were put on earth to rise above.' (Vince)

Believe more in the currency of love and grace, even in the midst of your aspirations and achievements. (Jim)

Lots of things in life are interesting - only a few are really important. (Carol)

If you make a mistake own up to the mistake, apologize if you need to do so, fix it if it is possible to do so & move on. (Beth)

I conclude this list with what I would say:  Pay attention to what you pay attention to, because whatever you pay attention to is what will grow in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Clearly, I am blessed to know some very wise people!  

Now it's your turn. What would you say if given a chance to offer a sentence or two of advice to young graduates? Feel free to reply to this email and let me know.

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