Tuesday, May 18, 2010
A Commencement Speech For the Class of 2010
One of the things I have always wanted to do was give a commencement speech. It's on my bucket list. I thought I could put all my lecturing skills that my children say I have to good use. There are things I want to say, feel passionately about and feel the need to share. I tease my oldest that when she graduates from college, I hope to be in a position to be her commencement speaker. She then gives me a look like I have three heads and says, "Don't you dare!" It makes me laugh when she thinks I may embarrass her. I really don't need a podium and a microphone to do that.
If I were to be honored enough to speak to the graduates, here is what I am yearning and burning to say:
Good afternoon graduates. I am honored and thrilled to be here. As I look out at the sea of faces before me, I notice something extraordinary. I am awe inspired by your presence here and your choice to work so hard to have this moment. In this moment, that will end in a blink of an eye, you have spent the last four years of your life diligently working towards your future and mine. You have actively made the choice to dedicate your life to the endeavor of pursuing and attaining your goals. So many of you, without conscious thought beyond your diploma, have already altered the world you live in simply by aspiring to be better, smarter and more accomplished, and for that I thank you. It is in this moment I want to talk to you about why I think you have already made the most brilliant decision of your life and how you will have long term effects on the world you live in that will inspire others for greatness also.
Today you share with your classmates the collective sigh of relief that this part of your journey is done. After exhausting hours of papers, classes and the endless lists of things that had to be completed, you have reached this finish line. Today is the day to celebrate each of your individual accomplishments and the accomplishments of your entire class as a whole. We, seasoned veterans, celebrate with you and do the dance of joy that you have chosen a life of higher education. It is a choice that you may not have realized in the beginning was much of a choice at all. Maybe, you had parents that pushed hard for you to attend school, all the while preaching about securing a better life. I know that is the recurring theme in my personal lecture series to my own children. Maybe you wanted to pursue a job that requires the diploma you are about to receive and so you felt this was your only option. Whatever the reason that brought you here, know this: you made a choice to better yourself and through all kinds of adversity, struggle and strife you have accomplished your goal. I see you now all smiling, as you think back on all the crappy jobs you held, the long late nights, covered in books with no other company than the voices in your head and the very early mornings, as you raced out of your room in pajama pants in order to make it to your first class.
I encourage you all to make today memorable with your family and friends, celebrating your brilliance and abilities. Dance the night away, comforted in the knowledge, you are in the very beginning of the rest of your life.
Tomorrow is the dawn of a new day for you. Tomorrow when you awake, you will be faced with the daunting task of deciding what is next for you. Know this, my friends, you have already established by being here today what kind of world you want to live in. You have already set your foundation in knowledge, hard training and diligence. When others tell you that you are the future, know this is true and the future begins now. You are in the extraordinary position, in the most unique time in history, to determine not just your worth in the world, but the worth of future generations. The time we are in is without a doubt one of the most challenging, and yet here you sit as graduates. You will be a generation that inspires others to work hard, and keep heart. You have seen the best and worst humanity has to offer, and you will be the chosen leaders because of the choices you made now, being here with us today. I am thrilled to see you all, ready for what life hands you. I have dubbed you the "Lemonade" generation, because with all the things that could be perceived as hopeless, you maintain that the future is bright, and hope lives strong within each of you. You have already proven, that in the midst of one of the worst economies in history, that achievement can still be had. You have shown the world that the American dream is alive and well, and that your generation is up to the work ahead. You inherited problems, that you weren't even aware existed a decade ago as you played in your yard with your friends as a child, and you decided, as a young adult, that you would use this as a challenge, rather than a deterrent.
It will be your talents, expanding minds and beating hearts that will help reshape the world to be, not as good as it was, but a place where dreams come true, humanity reigns and freedom for all is a reality. It is you, who will be the living example that the greatest generation is not behind us, but in the audience today.
Yours will be the generation of truth seekers, integrity and discovery. Yours will be the generation of charity, empathy and human connection.
As each of you begins to make your own way, remember this moment today as the tipping point, where you decided how the world you live in would be treated.
As a parent, I stand before you, humbled by your drive to create a better future and I say this for all of the parents in the audience today; we gently pass the torch to you in order to illuminate your path ahead and want you to know, we believe in you, just as you believed in us. This is your moment, take a look to your left and right and see the faces, who worked so very hard to earn their place in leadership.
I congratulate you and wish you all the brightest days ahead as you begin to guide the course of history.