ahhhh it’s the time of year for graduations. and with graduations come commencement speeches. quick! who was your high school commencement speaker and what did they talk about? how about your college speaker? thought so. unless you went to a prestigious college where celebrities want to speak, your college speaker was someone you don’t remember. i think mine was a poet. maybe. probably.
the only reason i remember by high school commencement speaker is because i was the high school commencement speaker. even i don’t remember what i talked about but it was most probably lame. surely i had no insight to offer anyone else at the age of 18, except that life is ahead, bla, bla, bla.
what i remember from my college commencement is more what was told to me by my good friend who was graduating too. she even had portraits taken. i never bothered. but her portraits came in handy because she was able to tell me what color our caps and gowns were. i didn’t even remember that we wore caps and gowns, but i do remember the dress i wore.
L spoke at her high school graduation, so i remember that and bill cosby spoke at her college graduation so i remember that too. i have no idea who spoke at e’s high school graduation, but since e was graduating from the business school, her speaker was some big wig from cigna (i think). he talked about sticking with your morals in business and this was after the financial meltdown. it was a short speech.
so recently c played a “song” that was actually the text from a column by mary schmich published in the chicago tribune on june 1, 1997. the title of the column was “advice like youth probably wasted on the young” and the title of the “song” by baz luhrmann “everyone is free (to wear sunscreen)”. the column was wrongly attributed to kurt vonnegut, an error that persists today.
mary’s advice is spot on. i can imagine that graduates hearing the speech would not get it, but i’ve got a lot of years on me now, so i thoroughly get it.
i also thoroughly get steve jobs’ speech from 2005. and though it’s mostly about his history and journey, which is interesting to hear about anyway, it’s the last part of the speech that gets me. that’s where he talks about knowing that he’s dying and making decisions based on that knowledge.
it’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to think about the concept of dying when you’re young, but as you get older, and friends your age start dying off, that’s when it all becomes very real. and the fact that you will be gone should make you want to do everything right now. i know that a lot of people figure it’s too late to start anything new or learn anything new, but i figure it’s probably the perfect time. whatever was holding you back before is probably gone now, or no longer worth caring about.
steve jobs put it best:
“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. they somehow already know what you truly want to become. everything else is secondary.”