This is the time of year for graduation. Public high schools will begin to say goodbye to the Class of 2016 over the next month or so. Many colleges have already passed out diplomas. And many of those colleges bring in significant commencement speakers.
Here is some very interesting advice given to college graduates during the past month.
Barack Obama at Rutgers-New Brunswick: “The world is going to continue becoming even more interconnected and building walls won't change that. Building walls cannot change that. When leaders are not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we've got a problem. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. A while back, you may have seen a United States senator trotted out a snowball during a floor speech in the middle of winter as proof that the world was not warming. We live in a great nation and we are rightly proud of our history. You have to be persistent. The point is, to help ourselves we’ve got to help others - not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out. You will, occasionally, deal with foolish people. You will get frustrated. So you have to stick with it. You have to be persistent. That's how progress happens - in societies and in our own lives. Cynicism never accomplished anything.”
Stephen Spielberg at Harvard: “Please stay connected. Please never lose eye contact. This may not be a lesson you want to hear from a person who creates media, but we are spending more time looking down at our devices than we are looking in each other’s eyes. Everyone here, please find someone’s eyes to look into. Turn to someone you don’t know or don’t know very well. They may be standing behind you, or a couple of rows ahead. Just let your eyes meet. That emotion you’re feeling is our shared humanity mixed in with a little social discomfort. If you remember nothing else from today, I hope you remember this moment of human connection. Because today you start down the path of becoming the generation on which the next generation stands. I’ve imagined many possible futures in my films, but you will determine the actual future. I hope that it’s filled with justice and peace. Finally, I wish you all a true, Hollywood-style happy ending. I hope you outrun the T-rex, catch the criminal and for your parents’ sake, maybe every now and then, just like E.T. - go home.”
Rep. John Lewis at Washington University: “I got in the way. I got in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way. Get in the way to force change. The world may be better off because of it.”
NFL quarterback Russell Wilson at Wisconsin: “When life tells you no, find a way to keep things in perspective. That doesn't make the painful moments any less painful. But it does mean you don't have to live forever in the pain. You don't have to live forever in that no. Because if you know what you're capable of, if you're always prepared, and you keep things in perspective, then life has a way of turning a no into yes.”
Joe Biden at West Point: “Having men and women together in the battlefield is an incredible asset, particularly when they're asked to lead teams in parts of the world with fundamentally different expectations and norms. Whenever the stakes are highest, we turn to the United States Army. Whether it's fighting terrorism, training our partners, reassuring our allies or providing humanitarian relief, we call on you. And right now, the stakes could not be higher. The bad thing about advanced technology is that it gives immense powers to stateless actors. You'll need to dominate the cyber realm as you do the physical one.”
Bill Clinton at Loyola-Marymount: “There are so many people who feel that they’re losing out in the modern world because people either don’t see them, or they see them only as members of groups that threaten them. Are we going to expand the definition of us and shrink the definition of them, or do we just hunker down in the face of uncomfortable realities and just stick with our crowd? It will be a bleaker future if you do that. There are no final victories or defeats in this life. You will make mistakes and you will fail. It is not given to us to win every battle but to fight the right fights.”
The most entertaining commencement speech happened at Tufts University where Hank Azaria finished his address in the voices of some of the characters he portrays on “The Simpsons.” You can watch the final five minutes of his speech below.
Words of Wisdom: “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success. (Robert Orben, comedy writer)
People we meet: Steve operates at A to Z Lock & Key. He will bring his fully-equipped van anywhere, anytime to install a lock or create a key, especially a vehicle key. His service is fast and professional.
(This At Large column, along with previous editions, can be found online at shorenewstoday.com/opinions where you can post comments. Direct reactions or questions about this column can be sent via email to Tom.Williams@catamaranmedia.com.)