Over the past week I’ve heard several commencement addresses from the boring and mundane to the inspiring and insightful. Each speaker tried to entertain us while attempting to give the graduates a sense of themselves, sometimes perhaps a little too boastful, but perceptibly wanting to set a good example. Commentary by Pamela Hulse Andrews
My favorite to-date, as there are more graduations yet to view in June, was senior class representative, Gerard Paolo Cabarse, graduating with a BS in Psychology from Dominican University of California. Gerard was clever, funny, energetic and tendered perhaps one of the best pieces of advice about the future as his fellow graduates go forth in their lives. His quote will be remembered: A stranger is someone you haven’t met yet. Let’s go make some friends.
The keynote address came from Dana King, an artist and former broadcast journalist from Los Angeles who received an honorary degree from Dominican that day. Dana it seemed, at least from her description, had led a charmed life and has crossed many thresholds of achievement. Her advice was full of antidotes about stuff she’s learned along the way. She offered three tips: share the credit when you’re successful with those who helped you get there, say I’m sorry as quickly as possible with sincerity and be true to your self (in other words find what you really like and do it).
Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College after only six months and likely didn’t say I’m sorry often nor share the credit for his success, put forth these guidelines at a commencement address in 2005 at Stanford knowing then that his life would be cut short from his illness:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
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.
Heeding Steve Job’s advice certainly could manifest a definitive future.
At the end of the Dominican graduation, Gerard, the senior class speaker, wouldn’t let us just go forth without a little jovial performance and uplifting concert. He led the entire audience in a fast rendition of I Will Survive. The audience was elated from the liveliness of the song while the graduates were saying let’s get this party started!
It’s exciting and exhilarating to see all of these young graduates get ready to change the world, achieve their goals, knock on doors and pick themselves up again when at first they don’t succeed.
At a commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia last year author Neil Gaiman said: and now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or be disappointed in us. Cynics always say no … for as long as you have the strength to, say yes. ~ Stephen Colbert, Knox College, 2006
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. ~ Winston Churchill, Harrow School, 1941