It’s that time of year. Commencement ceremonies are taking place around the world. Young men and women find themselves at the end, of arguably, the most invigorating time of their lives. Invigorating in the sense that rarely, outside of the four years (plus or minus) of university/college, do the intellectual and social intersect to provide such a consistent, enduring, sense of power, enthusiasm, and attainable vision. Coming to the end of that time is filled with what my five-year-old would call, mixed-emotions. As the dean at my son’s recent, commencement ceremony noted, these mixed-emotions apply equally to parents, as well as, the graduates themselves. I was grateful that he acknowledged me. He wisely quoted Erma Bombeck, “Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”
Although my beautiful son, whom I’m sure just yesterday, was crawling up on my lap with a well-loved book, leaping off the couch proudly wrapped in his superman cape, and relentlessly practicing kick-flips on the driveway, was beaming; I spent most of day unsuccessfully choking back tears. Unemployment is an emotional shock.
As such, I was intrigued when I discovered the wonderful (and new favourite) website called, brainpickings. They recently featured, “Words to live by: 5 Timeless Commencement Addresses.” I won’t torture you with my interpretation or synopsis of all five speakers, suffice to say, they are worth a listen. But I will provide you with just a couple treasures that inspired me.
J.K. Rowlings (Harry Potter fame) addressed Harvard graduates in 2008. Her address rekindled my secret longing to have been born British – how else to have such a natural sense of humour, wit, and timing? Jealousy aside, let me leave you with this, “We do not need magic to transform our world, we carry all the power we need inside us already: we have the power to imagine better.”
Then, from Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), “It’s harder to be kind, than clever………Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”
So I would say, in my Commencement address, “ Each of you has the power to profoundly change the world each and every day. You do not have to aspire to greatness, you simply chose to be kind. Imagine that world, then make the choice to create it.”
My son Kohen, and my unemployed self.