As you might know, I'll be graduating from college tomorrow! Ah!! Now, at UF's graduation, we actually don't have a commencement speaker. Like, you know how some colleges get fancy speakers, like the First Lady or somebody who invented post-its? Well, we don't get anyone. They send us out into the world without an inspiring bits of wisdom to guide us. Cruel, really. (Just kidding). Luckily, many great commencement speeches from years past are available online. I'll share some of my favorites with you now...
First of all, I've mentioned this one before, but it's worth repeating, because it's awesome. I am, of course, referring to the speech This is Water, given by David Foster Wallace at a Kenyon College commencement. You can read it online here or watch it on YouTube. What I took away from this speech is basically the idea that "you are not the center of the universe." I mean, people always say that, but he really illustrates this point. For example, I like when he says that when someone gets in your way on the road, you should consider the fact that maybe they're having an emergency, and maybe you are actually in their way. Of course, as Wallace points out, it can be hard to think like this, and it might be the effort of a lifetime, but it will help you avoid the frustration that so many people feel.
Another great piece of commencement advice: The famous "Wear Sunscreen" speech. (Actually, I'm not sure it was a speech. Maybe just a column in a newspaper.) This one contains lots of great advice like, "Don't read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly," and "Be careful of whose advice you buy into" and, of course, "wear sunscreen."
Also, I recently saw this article, in the Wall Street Journal, written by a former commencement speech writer. Some of his advice I don't really agree with, or just feel kind of "meh" about, but some of it is good. I especially likes when he says that one way you can measure your success after college is to see how many of your college friends you're still in touch with.
Someone on Facebook suggested this one to me: Conan O'Brian at Dartmouth in 2011. The beginning is funny, and then he delves into some Dartmouth in-jokes which is not all that interesting unless you go to Dartmouth, but hang in there because the last ten minutes are really interesting. He says that by failing to achieve the thing you think you want, you might actually achieve something bigger and more important. I also liked when he said that everyone shows up to college with a certain idea of what it will be like, and that idea almost certainly doesn't match up with what actually happens to them at college. That really rang true to me.
Another person on Facebook suggested this one: J.K. Rowling at Harvard. I had no idea that J.K. Rowling gave a commencement speech! So that was cool. Also, her speech was extremely inspiring. It's interesting, both she and Conan O'Brian talked about how you can profit and better yourself from failure. I also really like when she talks about the importance of imagination and using your imagination to empathize with others. Also, when she quotes Plutarch, saying that "what we achieve inward will affect outwardly."
And finally, there's this rather famous speech, given by Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005. I like how he says that you shouldn't be trapped in living someone else's life or drowned by other's opinions. And again, he talks a lot about how failure can help you grow and ultimately succeed. So I guess what all of us graduates really need to do is go out there and fail! Are you excited? I know I am.