I first put together a collection of good advice directed to graduates as part of commencement addresses in a column that ran several years ago. I have updated it for the Class of 2014.
I don’t want graduates to be the only ones to get the benefits of all this wisdom. All of us need good advice to make it through this world.
So, members of the Class of 2014, I know you are anxious to get out of those silly looking caps and gowns as soon as possible and get on with your lives, but try to be patient. Take a moment during commencement and listen to the speaker. Maybe, just maybe, the distinguished speaker will tell you something you can use one day.
Here are words of wisdom to graduates I thought were worth passing on:
“When you leave here today and commence the next stage of your life, you can follow someone else’s script, try to make choices that will make other people happy, avoid discomfort, do what is expected and copy the status quo. Or you can look at all that you have accomplished today and use it as fuel to venture forth and write your own story. If you do, amazing things will take shape.”
— Actress Kerry Washington speaking at George Washington Uni-versity in 2013
“So, Class of 2011, the hard road doesn’t end here; your journeys have just begun. And your diploma isn’t a free pass — it can’t protect you against every setback or challenge or mistake. You’ve got to keep working hard. You’ve got to keep pushing yourselves. But if you do, I am confident about your futures. I am hopeful and excited about all that you can achieve.”
— President Barack Obama, speaking at Booker T. Washington High School, Memphis, Tenn., in 2011
— The late journalist and political commentator Tim Russert speaking at the Niagara University in 2000
“Remember the message our parents and grandparents and teachers repeated and repeated — and instilled in us. A belief if you worked hard and played fair, things really would turn out all right. And you know something — after working for senators and governors, meeting popes and interviewing presidents — I think they might be right.”
— The late Steve Jobs, then CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, speaking at Stanford University in 2005.
“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.”
— Steven Colbert, talk show host, speaking at the Northwestern University in 2011.
“Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.”
— Arianna Huffington, political commentator and media company owner, speaking at Smith College in 2013.
“At the moment, our society’s notion of success is largely composed of two parts: money and power. In fact, success, money, and power have practically become synonymous. But it’s time for a third metric, beyond money and power — one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back. Money and power by themselves are a two-legged stool — you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over.”
— Conan O’Brien, talk show host, speaking at the Dartmouth College in 2011.
“I am going to give you real, practical advice that you will need to know if you are going to survive the next few years. First, adult acne lasts longer than you think. I almost canceled two days ago because I had a zit on my eye. Guys: this is important — you cannot iron a shirt while wearing it. If you live on Ramen Noodles for too long, you lose all feeling in your hands and your stool becomes a white gel. And finally, wearing colorful Converse high-tops beneath your graduation robe is a great way to tell your classmates that this is just the first of many horrible decisions you plan to make with your life.”
Good luck, Class of 2014.
Work hard. Be kind. Find joy in all you do.
It all goes by very fast.