After I was done orating my speech, the lady on the two-person selection committee said she liked it but…
It doesn’t have any quotes. I like quotes. It just shouldn’t be all yours.”
It shouldn’t be “all mine“? That’s a very intelligent way to put it, I would say.
She said that if I revised it they would reconsider it. I never bothered. I decided to post it here, for shit and giggles. Consider it an open-source speech draft of sorts. There is probably someone out there who has a graduation ceremony and is Googling ideas for a graduation speech right now.
EDIT 3-29-2010: Just read The Last Lecture, and I think I know why this draft wasn’t selected:
“If you dispense your own wisdom, others often dismiss it; if you offer wisdom from a third party, it seems less arrogant and more acceptable” -Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Not that there is much wisdom in my words, but just thought that quote was interesting.
Written in 15 minutes and unedited. Excuse grammar/spelling mistakes.
Members of the faculty, parents, distinguished guests, and fellow graduates:
A little over a month ago, I received an email inviting graduate students expected to graduate in fall 2009 to submit a draft speech for this ceremony. “Up to 500 words…” the email defined the limit of the speech to be. Truth be told, I never was a great fan of speeches, but I was nonetheless thoroughly intrigued by a question: what can I possibly tell my fellow graduate students in 500 words? The answer is: a lot of things! I sat down with an open notebook and picked three things that I deemed worthy of emphasis. I say emphasis because what I am goingto talk to you about are things that you and I probably already know, but perhaps need regular reminders of their importance every now and then. Let this speech be one of those reminders.
I have already wasted about a hundred words of my five hundred, so let me promptly start with the first thing I want to remind you of:
You are now a proud holder of a master’s degree. You have climbed more than a few rungs on the proverbial education ladder, and you are placed even higher on the employment food chain. What we need to remember is that this degree – and today’s celebration of being rightfully awarded this degree – is not merely a rite of passage. It also signifies acquiring a powerful personal enabler. An enabler that gives us an abundance of intellectual tools, the most important of which are those of perpetual self-discovery, the constant pursuit of knowledge and the questioning of popular dogma. Which leads me to the second thing I would like to remind you of…
This enabler that we have acquired means precious little without an important realization on our part, that of the difference between education and enlightenment. Indeed, today we have formally obtained a graduate degree from a world-class university and a powerful intellectual hub in the region. What I see before me is not merely a group of happy graduate students, I see massive potential. Potential that will not be tapped into except by yourself. Being “well-educated” only means that you have acquired credible, formal training in your discipline of choice. Being enlightened, on the other hand, means that you have further acquired knowledge that allows you to know how and where to make the best use of this education. The future of humanity does not depend on the educated, it rather hinges on the very small percentage of those educated who are also enlightened. I call on you to always count yourselves among the enlightened and to let your actions and decisions reflect that fact.
The third and final thing I would like to remind you of is the importance of leaving a legacy. We need to remember that acquiring such intellectual enablers is not only a privilege, but also a responsibility. If you go out on campus and ask random students about what their prime goal in life is, you frequently get the answer that goes along the lines of “I would like to make a difference”. The fact is that very few have a solid plan on how to go about this task. You now have the enabling tools to start exploring what kind of difference you can make, and where. Start looking into it!
So there you have it, three things that I believe to be worthy of constant self-reminders. If I am to put this speech in one sentence, it would be that the difference between education and enlightenment is realizing you have acquired a powerful enabler to leave a lasting legacy.
Congratulations and good luck.