I go to work every day on a college campus in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Today, the day before graduation, the jacarunda trees have started to bloom bright violet and the event management companies are busily constructing tents and setting out thousands of chairs for the graduates and their families. It is a time of celebration and reflection.
To get in the spirit of the festivities, I want to share a few excerpts from a commencement speech which resonates far beyond the transition from college. My favorite is the one that was never delivered.
Anna Quindlen was the scheduled commencement speaker on June 23, 2000 at Villanova University. When conservative protesters threatened to disrupt the ceremony, Ms. Quindlen bowed out. " I don't want to do anything that would distrupt the ceremony for them."
However, the text took on a life of it's own when a Villanova graduate requested a copy and posted it on the internet. It was published in 2000 as 'A Short Guide to a Happy Life'.
"..when you look at the faces of a class of graduating seniors, you realize that each student has only one thing that no one else has. When you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.
But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account but your soul.
People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely...
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house...
You just need to get a life, a real life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too. The classroom is everywhere. the exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office."
Causes Eileen Kohan Supports
Metropolitan Museum of Art
USC Good Neighbors
Office of Letters and Light