Slight Addition to Graduation Speeches

. 1 min read . Written by Russell Smith
Slight Addition to Graduation Speeches

Yes, pursue your dreams. But more than dreams will define your life and character.

Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford graduation speech has nearly 39 million views. David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water, has over 4 million views.

In the midst of the usual graduation speeches, I wish speakers would add a paragraph or two. The addition would go something like this.

“By all means, pursue your dreams and loves and passions. But know that life includes a wide variety of experiences. They will shape you as well. A friend will commit suicide. One of those 37 weddings you will attend in the next 5 years will end in divorce -- maybe yours. One of your kids -- or perhaps a niece or nephew -- will be born with a major medical issue. Your mother will beat cancer once, then it’ll come back years later. She’ll have a feeding tube for the rest of her life. A neighborhood girl will be texting while driving and will cause the death of her friend in the passenger seat. You will become involved in a charity, only to find it painfully lacking in actual impact. You will feel the temptation to ignore your father’s deteriorating condition as you try to build your company. You will feel anger that an ER trip ruins a vacation. You will not face all these challenges. But you will face some. You will face them sooner than you expect.

“I contend that how you face these moments, these experiences, will both form and reveal more about your life than your job, career, ambition, skills, talents and titles. I cannot tell you how to face them, how to make decisions when competing self-images confront you. But I can tell you from experience -- you will feel best about yourself if you make the most humane choice.”


Image created by Midjourney.