2015 Commencement Speech Highlights
Each year, graduations and the speeches that they bring provide us with words that encourage reflection on the questions that the Good Project seeks to explore: what does it mean to be a good worker, good person, and good citizen? We again feature quotes from a range of commencement speeches that have taken place at institutions of higher education in May and June of 2015. The quotations selected and presented here focus on various Good Project ideas, including finding balance in the digital world, the 3 E’s of ethics, excellence, and engagement, responsibility, values, and professionalism.
“But in addition to taking pride in your work, you should always ask yourself if you could be doing more — and by more, I mean doing more to help others. It’s precisely because you are so talented that you should never be completely satisfied until you have satisfied yourself that you have done all you could. For that to happen, you need to set your own internal expectations and do things that you know are right, even when no one would blame you for failing to act. This is just as important in your personal life as it is in your professional life. There will be chances, large and small, to help others who are closest to you, even when you are not expected to do so. No one will blame you, for example, if you can’t make it to your child’s presentation in an elementary school class because it’s in the middle of the day and you have to work. But if you can figure out a way to be there, go, because you know it’s the right thing to do.” – Dean James Ryan, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“As someone who runs a 24/7 digital media company and who uses every form of social media ever invented, I hope I have some street cred when I urge you to build boundaries, introduce digital detoxes into your life, and learn to regularly disconnect from the jumble and the cacophony and make time to reconnect with yourself. There will be many profound and fulfilling relationships ahead of you, but the relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. And, like any relationship, it can’t be taken for granted — without care and attention, it will atrophy and, ultimately, break down.” – Ariana Huffington, Vassar College
“Graduates, your values matter. They are your north star. And work takes on new meaning when you feel you are pointed in the right direction. Otherwise, it’s just a job, and life is too short for that. We need the best and brightest of your generation to lead in government and in business. In the science and in the arts. In journalism and in academia. There is honor in all of these pursuits. And there is opportunity to do work that os infused with moral purpose. You don’t have to choose between doing good and doing well. It’s a false choice, today more than ever.” – Tim Cook, George Washington University
“You have to be willing to venture outside of your comfort zone. Being at ESPN and being in sports was my comfort zone. You have to be willing to venture outside of that. And don’t get in the habit of saying no. I said no for so long, about being in news, that I didn’t even mean it anymore….Don’t worry about the fear factor..Everybody in here has felt it, will feel it. If you wait for it to pass, you’ll be sitting on the sidelines for a very long time. And what I’ve found is, when fear knocks, let faith answer the door…I do not know what it is you want to do, I don’t know your hopes and dreams, only you know that. But I do know you have put yourself in a position for great things to happen to you….This is the moment you have dreamt about, and you have made it possible. So you already have that formula for success. Whatever it is you want to do…remember what you did to get here to this very moment.” – Robin Roberts, Emerson College
“People with vocations don’t ask: What do I want from life? They ask: What is life demanding me to do? What gap is there in my specific circumstances around me that demands my skill set? It’s not found by looking inside you for your passion. People have studied this. Eighty percent of you don’t have a passion. It’s found by looking outward, by being sensitive to a void and need, and then answering the chance to be of use. A calling, like being a teacher or a nurse or a scientist, comes with certain rules, obligations, and standards of excellence. These customs structure the soul and guide behavior and become deeply woven into the identities of the people who practice them. A teacher’s relationship to the craft of teaching is not an individual choice that can be renounced when the psychic losses exceed the psychic benefits. Being a teacher is who she is.” – David Brooks, Dartmouth College
“And at the end of the day, by staying true to the me I’ve always known, I found that this journey has been incredibly freeing. Because no matter what happened, I had the peace of mind of knowing that all of the chatter, the name calling, the doubting — all of it was just noise. It did not define me. It didn’t change who I was. And most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back. I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values — and follow my own moral compass — then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own. So, graduates, that’s what I want for all of you. I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves. I want you to ask those basic questions: Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back? And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.” – Michelle Obama, University of Tuskegee