Commencement season is again upon us. Local ceremonies began last Friday with Feather River College. Plumas and Westwood charter schools hold their ceremonies later this week, and public high schools will hold theirs Friday, June 11.
Here we offer excerpts from highly regarded commencement speeches of the last few years.
To our graduates, congratulations and good luck.
“Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”
University of Portland
“There is nothing naïve about your impulse to change the world. Because all it takes is one act of service — one blow against injustice — to send forth what Robert Kennedy called that ‘tiny ripple of hope.’”
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.”
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”
David Foster Wallace
“I hope you'll pick a fight and get in it. Get your boots dirty; get rough; steel your courage with a final drink there at Smoky Joe's, one last primal scream and go. Sing the melody line you hear in your own head; remember, you don't owe anybody any explanations; you don't owe your parents any explanations; you don't owe your professors any explanations.”
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
“I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest inequities, on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.”
“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.”
“Dig as deep as you have to, and rise as high as you can. Keep your passion. Make mistakes and learn from them. Honor curiosity and follow it. And, in everything you do, recognize the individuals in the other.”
Sarah Lawrence College