Around this time of year, videos and transcripts of recent college commencement addresses begin to appear. Some of them are very good! Aaron Sorkin, for instance, gave a really nice address to students at Syracuse University (his alma mater). Yes, he largely repurposed an address he gave at the school in 1997 (link via), but Sorkin has a well-established habit of revisiting his own lines, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal? (Unless you were at the ceremony in 1997 and also at the one earlier this month, and maybe in that case you feel very let down because despite it being 15 years later and Sorkin having created “The West Wing” and won an Oscar for “The Social Network” during that time, he apparently doesn’t have much in the way of new thoughts to offer graduates.) Anyway, it’s still a good speech.
Longform gathered some other gems, including Sheryl Sandberg’s speech at Barnard last year and Jon Stewart’s words to William & Mary in 2004. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have no idea what my commencement speaker said. As such, I will again point to two of my personal favorites: David Foster Wallace’s 2005 address at Kenyon College (audio) and Conan O’Brien’s address to Harvard in 2000.
Read obituaries. They are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead orderly, linear lives.
Okay, so you have probably seen this already, as it has been online for days and quickly reached maximum Internet exposure because everybody already posted it on Facebook and tweeted it and emailed it. But some of us only just saw it! Some of us saved it to read later and then we forgot and then the Heat game was on, and the next thing we knew we had forgotten to read that thing everybody had already seen and shared.
So I’m going to share it again because hey, maybe you also missed it, maybe you just didn’t see it because it’s a big bad Internet out there and sometimes you get caught up in things and miss that one item everybody has already seen. Here’s that list of things your commencement speaker won’t tell you, and it really is quite good if you haven’t read it already. (I particularly like the lowered expectations: “I am not asking you to cure cancer. I am just asking you not to spread it.”)
I don’t remember a single thing my commencement speaker said. Not a word. Probably something about graduation? Not really sure. But since it is graduation time for many students, I will also link to two of my favorite commencement addresses: Conan O’Brien’s speech to Harvard students in 2000 and David Foster Wallace’s famous “This Is Water” address to Kenyon College in 2005. (Here’s audio of the DFW speech, if you’d rather listen.)