As a recent college graduate, and someone who was fortunate enough to give the undergraduate student commencement speech on behalf of my graduating class, I can vouch for two things: it is difficult to contrive a speech that will resonate with a large and diverse audience, and it is difficult to sit through a speech that does not. I stumbled upon the 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech and was so captivated by the message that I felt it necessary to share.
I promise you it is worth watching the short video in its entirety. You can find it at the bottom of this post. Here is a short excerpt:
“If you want to operate on your default settings then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital T-True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of real education. Of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. That is real freedom … None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital T-Truth is about life before death.”