A Commencement Address You'll Never Hear
Over the past few weeks you've probably seen
quotes from various commencement addresses around the nation. You did NOT see a
quote from me. That's because again this year I did not get a single
invitation, not one.
True, I'm completely unqualified: I'm not
famous and won't draw a crowd: I'm not wealthy and will never come across with
the funds for a new building; and, most of all, no college administrator would
want to hear what I would say. So I decided I wouldn't wait for an invitation
but will go ahead and write the speech I'll never be asked to deliver. Here's a
Greetings to you
graduates of Ordinary State. I deeply hope you've had a wonderful time
here because, odds are, you will look back at these at the best years of your
life. In other words, it's all downhill from here, folks.
And that's why I hope you didn't choose your college
major based on some idiotic article like "Careers: What's Hot and What's Not"
No, I hope you studied topics that were a joy to you, and didn't take the rest
of the silly coursework too seriously.
But today I have a message for those of you who did
take your silly coursework too seriously, to those of you who finished near the
top of your class. I was once one of you. Now, nearly a quarter-century later,
I can tell you that one day you'll look back on these years and think: "What a
moron I was!" In a decade or two, you top students will recollect dimly a few
sentences from the classes you took, but you'll reminisce with fresh pain about
the trip to Europe you didn't take, the instrument you were too busy to master,
the love you never expressed, all the days and the nights you were too busy
learning the meaning of the term "opportunity cost" to realize what
opportunities you were paying with.
Even so, these are probably the best years of your
life. What does that say about what you learned and didn't learn here at
While here you learned to be logical, to take orders,
to be patient, to stay in line and to fill out the forms. You have been well
prepared for a dissatisfying life. The giant bureaucracy called higher
education has stamped you with its seal of approval, proving you are fit to be
employed by the bureaucracy of your choice.
The higher in your class you graduated, the better
bureaucrat you'll make. It doesn't seem fair that the most devoted students
learned the least about teamwork, creativity, risk-taking, intuition,
self-reliance. In fact, it doesn't seem right that you learned so little about
And speaking of success... So now what? Now you have
some choices to make. I'm going to pass along a passage from Carlos Casteneda,
the best advice I've ever encountered on the subject of choosing how you spend
"Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try
it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone
one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor
told me about it once when I was young and my blood was too vigorous for me to
understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this
path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't it is of no
Friends, you have spent several years learning to be
logical and rational, to use your brain. And now it is time to choose a career
and I implore you to leave your bullying brain out of it. You aren't choosing a
career, you're choosing a life. On the day you choose you work, choose with
your heart. Don't think it through, feel it through.
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