Commencement (1 of 3)

Joe Maloy Uncategorized

I want to begin this next post with a BIG congratulations.  One of my best friends from Wildwood Crest, NJ, is graduating from college this semester, and I got the idea for this post while thinking about his achievement.  I’m not going to use any names, but this person has been through an awful lot over the past few years.  His journey through college was anything but conventional.  Then again, what real journey goes exactly to plan?  I’d argue that more “learning” occurs when one is forced to make adjustments after the original plans go awry.  This person’s dedication towards achieving a goal he set for himself has been incredibly inspiring, and I couldn’t be prouder to know him.  In the spirit of my buddy’s graduation, we’ll commence with this post.
The whole idea of the collegiate commencement address fascinates me.  (Do you see what I just did there!)  Usually delivered by an accomplished businessperson, politician or artist, it aims to cram one final nugget of wisdom into a group of students the college or university proclaims their best and their brightest—those worthy of a degree.  Ironically, the school is doing exactly it what had always warned the students against doing—cramming at the last minute! 
The logical thought would be that any commencement address should congratulate these hard-working individuals on the end of their education.  The speaker should tell them how great they all are for having worked so hard over the past few years.  One might even go as far as to expect that the speaker tell the graduates how easy the rest of their lives will be from that moment forward, right?  Wrong.  It’s just a shame most of the soon-to-be-graduates are too drunk and/or hung-over during the ceremony to remember this advice for beginning, not ending, their journey.  Maybe the school was right about that advice on cramming at the last minute?!
Now, we’ll move to the good part.  I’m more of a “learn by doing” type of person.  Instead of explaining to you what I think makes a good commencement speech and why you should love them too, I’m going to show you five of my favorites.  As always, I hope you’ll make your own judgments.  Tonight I’ll reveal the first one, then I’ll post two more tomorrow and the final two on Monday (12/10).  
#5: David McCullough, Boston College, 2008
I was in the audience for this one, but only in body.  It took me some time to really appreciate it.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the speech, along with links to both the complete text and to a video of the speech as it was delivered. 
Excerpts:
  • “Facts alone are never enough… One can have all the facts and miss the truth.  It can be like the old piano teacher’s lament to her student, ‘I hear all the notes, but I hear no music.’”
  • “Abigail Adams put it perfectly more that 200 years ago:  “Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought with ardor and attended with diligence.”  Ardor, to my mind, is the key word. “
  • “For many of you of the graduating class, the love of learning has already taken hold!  For others, it often happens later and often by surprise, as history has shown time and again.  That’s part of the magic.
  • “We’re all what we read to a very considerable degree.”  (What does that say about you—here—reading this blog?)
  • “If what you have learned here makes you want to learn more, well, that’s the point.”
  • “…always remember to tip the maid.”
  • “On we go.”

Link to full video: