Older, yet not wiser.
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.”
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
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.
I had all my best ideas when I was a child & I have decided to spend adulthood trying to remember them (unknown author)
It brought to mind something that I have always pondered: The “Doing what you love” vs. “Loving what you do” conundrum. To my mind, it always seemed to be akin to the “chicken or the egg” causality dilemma. The source of such dilemma, I presume, is the void created by the elusive luxury of choice: we can’t always choose to do what we love, right? Life throws a lot of curveballs and questions at us, and we often have to make what we deem to be unfavorable choices. Compromises, we call them.
The “solution” to this dilemma, I believe, is a very personal one. It is a solution that you will not find in bestselling self-empowerment books or motivational talks. It is often vague and obscure, but you need to realize that rather than hunting it down, you’re going to have to hammer it out yourself. You’re not trying to find or capture it, but rather you are trying to make it. That is why it is not very clear-cut and obvious. That is why you will have to make repairs, adjustments and changes along the way when things get broken. And things will be often broken.
I know that because this is what I am currently trying to do. There is a lot of hammering out and shaping taking place, and I don’t know when I’ll “get there”or “have it”, but I have a feeling that no one is ever fully “there”, because then there would be no point in going on. I think it’s more like a perpetual work-in-progress.
What I do know for sure is that those childhood ideas were too many and I’ll try to remember as many of them as I can. I don’t think the pet lion or live shark in the swimming pool are things I am going through with though.
It’s moving season. My university is moving campus and I am moving house. My office, apartment and car are all full of boxes of various sizes. A sense of temporariness is infused into familiar spaces, and there is an urgency to just move and get it over with. Nevertheless, it is refreshing. The inevitability of change feels surprisingly good. Granted, the warmness afforded to us by familiar spaces is to be appreciated. However, I find that staying too long in such spaces (my apartment, room, office, etc) cloys my mind into a subtle state of dullness resembling some form of conscious hibernation (how’s that for a great line of bull!). The intellect is lulled into what I would term as a state of “environment-induced hypnosis” due a lack of mental stimulation by what have become an overly familiar and intimate environment.
It might be a right-brain thing, or it might be just me. The fact remains that moving shakes thing up a bit, at least for a while, until the surroundings become excruciatingly familiar again.
On a differnt note, I am just glad that I will finally be able to find a parking spot on my street.
Don’t you just hate waiting?
It seems to me that a big chunk of our lifetime is spent in waiting. Waiting to board a plane, catch a train, at ticket counters, for the concerts to start, for your food, for your friends, coworker, boss, in traffic, etc. (The only thing that doesn’t make me wait is my dog. He’s always ready to go). Waiting is a an unavoidable evil, like dress shoes (which I hate; they’re slippery, uncomfortable and often very ugly). The thing about waiting is that it is something over which you often have no control, and we understandably get really riled up whenever there is anything that affects us that we can’t take command of.
This blog has been online since October 2004. At times I had even forgotten I had a website, and my blog has almost become an endangered species of the web, slowly going into virtual oblivion as Internet dust piles on it due to myself being too lazy or too busy to update it. Why should I even have a blog when I sporadically update it? The answer: Why not and who cares? Seriously though, I did ask myself that question: Why do I keep a personal blog? Yes, I know that nowadays everyone, their mother and their pet lizard has one, but do I really need one? Before I started blogging, the majority of personal blogs I usually came across (of people I personally know or don’t know) were just the digital manifestation of ye ol’ pen and paper diary, except now you think that everyone is suddenly interested in what you had for lunch today and how your dog is having a sudden bout of separation anxiety. And there is really nothing wrong with that, because it is what it is, just an online personal diary. There are the personal blogs with “debatable” content of universal interest on things like politics, religion and current affairs, with their authors getting into flame wars easly ignitable by these kinds of issues. Again, its just personal opinion, and you know the famous saying on personal opinion, don’t you? However, the advantage an online personal publishing medium gives those authors is clear: It gives them time to think, research and strike back. In a real life discussion/debate you often don’t have the time or the means to effectively organize your thoughts and come back with a strong counter argument. Not so with blogging; you post something that someone doesn’t like, s/he counters with a strong argument, you go grab a cup of coffee and spend a couple of hours researching before you reply with all kinds of links to “trusted” internet sources that flattens the peremisis on which s/he built his argument. Or so you would like to think.
Back on the topic of my personal blog. I do keep a “traditional” diary in one of these. Its a travel journal, but not strictly confined to that. I have started journaling in 2002, when I started traveling semi-frequently. When I started traveling with more regularity being a student recruiter and avid summer backpacker, my journal entries increased in number. When you travel, there is plenty to write about. In fact, it would be difficult to not find something to write about or note. An interesting person, an amazing place, an awesome event, a memorable moment, etc. Not everything can be recorded with a camera. I am often a lone traveler, and that’s fine by me, but sometimes there is the “this is so great I need to let everyone know!” moment. You snap self-portrait of your mug with raging bulls running after crazy Spaniards in Pampalona in the background, and an hour later your friends back home are reading your blog kicking themselves for not getting off their fat behinds and joining you on a one month trip to Europe because you told them that you were going to be “roughing it” in dingy hostels so that you can travel for four weeks instead of spending all your money on a 5-day package trip and ending up a miserable lonely bastard in Paris (this story needs a whole separate post). You can’t do that with a paper notebook. Well, you can, but its gonna take paper, ink, glue, a printer, an envelope, a stamp, and at least a week before your friends can see it. And what a hassle that’ll be do send it to all your friends. And thus the convenience of a blog.
What about you? Why do you blog? Don’t give me the obvious, overused, cliched reasons like “journalism for the masses” and all that. Dig deep, why do you really blog? Are you really an aspiring journalist? Is it just your online diary? Or are you just practicing your speed typing skills?
So officially as of today, I can’t have a passable excuse to do something totally reckless and irrational. Adulthood sucks.