Three Beautiful Graduation Quotesposted on 5/15/13
Congratulations, Class of 2013. After paying thousands of dollars to take tests, write papers, and present facts, you are finally graduating. If you managed to do so in four years (or less), you are the minority. The adult world is a scary and overwhelming place. Trust me–a day doesn’t go by where I don’t miss college greatly. But it’s not all bad. The adult world comes with stress, yes, but new experiences, friends, and freedoms as well.
After years of schooling, it is your university’s responsibility to send you off into the great big unknown with inspiring advice from a commencement speaker. Ideally, that speaker will nix the beginning-not-an-end cliches and offer humble advice with a little dose of humor. In honor of all of the 2013 graduates, here are a few wonderful graduation quotes from some incredibly talented folks. Welcome to the adult world. This month, the unemployment rate is only 7.5 percent!
David Foster Wallace
You know him for his behemoth novel Infinite Jest and short story collections that went so far over your head in your post modern literature class that you had to spend hours reviewing material with your smoking hot English teacher after class. Or was that just me? Wallace requires his readers to have, as Geoff eloquently put it, “an extremely large base vocabulary, a basic interest in learning new words, a wealth of esoteric knowledge, a good deal of perseverance, and a boatload of free time.” But giving Wallace’s fiction the time and thought it undoubtedly deserves was a difficult but rewarding experience. In 2005, Wallace offered Kenyon College’s graduating class some humble advice that skipped the, as he called it, “didactic little parable-ish stories” so commonly found in commencement speeches. He stressed that the most important elements of life are often the most difficult to recognize and discuss. He expressed that humans generally embrace solipsism but that the key to a true liberal arts education is choosing how to think by embracing compassion and awareness: “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” The sentiment in Wallace’s speech is so beautiful someone even felt the need to turn it into a movie!
You know her for making you laugh until your side hurts on Parks and Rec, Saturday Night Live, and Wet Hot American Summer. Additionally, you know her for being not being a regular mom–she’s a cool mom. Poehler was one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational theatre and sketch comedy training center. Among her many accomplishments, Poehler produces a webseries called “Smart Girls at the Party” which focuses on interviewing young women who change the world simply by being herself. Quite honestly, I don’t think there is a celebrity in Hollywood who is more charming, lovely, and inspirational than Amy Poehler. In 2011, Poehler gave the Class Day address to Harvard’s 2011 graduating class. In her speech, Poehler shares personal anecdotes peppered with cheerful jokes and seriously wise words on the importance of collaborating with peers: “You can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own.”
You know her for being the host of a weekend show on MSNBC aptly titled the Melissa Harris-Perry Show. Harris-Perry is the first black woman on a major network to host a solo show. Additionally, she was the youngest scholar to give the W.E.B. Du Bois speech at Harvard. She is a political science professor at Tulane University and is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. In summation: Harris-Perry is an incredibly intelligent and talented woman. In 2012, Harris-Perry delivered Wellesley’s commencement speech. She offered students nontraditional advice on ignorance, silence, and thickness. On ignorance, Harris-Perry posits, “Ignorance is not your enemy, only complacency with ignorance is to be resisted. Never become so enamored of your own smarts that you stop signing up for life’s hard classes. Remember to keep forming hypotheses and gathering data. Keep your conclusions light and your curiosity ferocious. Keep groping in the darkness with ravenous desire.” On silence, Harris-Perry notes the difference between being silent and being silenced: “I’m not asking you to silence your advocacy for justice or to mute your voice as a citizen. I am not asking you to accept the opinions of others as your own truths. I am not asking you to sit on your ideas or fail to share your skills. I am asking you to remember that silence is the vital precursor to voice. Gather your voice in your silence. Listen to it in your own head before you give it away. Wake up, roll over, and make love to the day wordlessly.” And finally, she encourages women to be thick: “Thin women look great in bikinis. Thick women look terrific in history books. Cultivate a radical thickness that allows you to be vulnerable and imperfect as you cast yourself headlong into the crazy, scary, painful, grown-up world.”
Let’s be honest, Harris-Perry’s speech was so inspirational, I could hardly pick one quote. Congrats, class of 2013. You did well.