So what’d you think?

I love Aaron Sorkin because he created the best TV show I have ever watched in my life. I have watched all 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing’ at least 3 times over, and I still get excited catching an episode. Aaron is brilliant, funny, but most of all, he is real. A few days back, he delivered the commencement speech at Syracuse University, which was really a thing of beauty. Here are some parts which moved me deeply:

Side by side

He shared two funny yet poignant stories at the beginning of his speech, and I shall re-share them here:

There’s a story about a man and a woman who have been married for 40 years. One evening at dinner the woman turns to her husband and says, “You know, 40 years ago on our wedding day you told me that you loved me and you haven’t said those words since.” They sit in silence for a long moment before the husband says “If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

There’s another story. Two newborn babies are lying side by side in the hospital and they glance at each other. Ninety years later, through a remarkable coincidence, the two are back in the same hospital lying side by side in the same hospital room. They look at each other and one of them says, “So what’d you think?”

On life’s journey

Today is May 13th and today you graduate. Growing up, I looked at my future as a timeline of graduations in which every few years, I’d be given more freedom and reward as I passed each milestone of childhood. When I get my driver’s license, my life will be like this; when I’m a senior, my life will be like that; when I go off to college, my life will be like this; when I move out of the dorms, my life will be like that; and then finally, graduation.

I’ve learned – and he later spells out as well – that life doesn’t always work out this way. But it’s ok.

Today is May 13th, and today you graduate, and today you already know what I know: to get where you’re going, you have to be good, and to be good where you’re going, you have to be damned good. Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control.

“I made some bad decisions…I have good friends”

I’ve made some bad decisions. I lost a decade of my life to cocaine addiction. You know how I got addicted to cocaine? I tried it. The problem with drugs is that they work, right up until the moment that they decimate your life. Try cocaine, and you’ll become addicted to it. Become addicted to cocaine, and you will either be dead, or you will wish you were dead, but it will only be one or the other. My big fear was that I wasn’t going to be able to write without it. There was no way I was going to be able to write without it. Last year I celebrated my 11-year anniversary of not using coke. (applause) Thank you. In that 11 years, I’ve written three television series, three movies, a Broadway play, won the Academy Award and taught my daughter all the lyrics to “Pirates of Penzance.” I have good friends.

I’m touched by how he openly shares this bad (and potentially fatal) decision in his life, and how wonderfully he frames this paragraph by the opening and closing statements.

Decisions are made by those who show up

Today is May 13th and today you graduate and the rules are about to change, and one of them is this: Decisions are made by those who show up. Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world.

I remember that he used this line in ‘The West Wing’ and he put it in the mouth of President Bartlet who was talking to a group of college students as well. =) Show up. Be present. Come even when sometimes it is easier to not come.

You’re too good

Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You’re too good for schadenfreude, you’re too good for gossip and snark, you’re too good for intolerance…

A small group of thoughtful people

Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.

Love this quote from Margaret Mead. I’m constantly searching for my ‘small group of thoughtful people, and I’m glad to say I’ve found a few good men (and women!) to journey alongside me in my life thus far.

Rehearsal’s over

Rehearsal’s over. You’re going out there now, you’re going to do this thing. How you live matters. You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.

Say ‘we’ where before you used to say ‘I’ and ‘us’

For the class of 2012, I wish you joy. I wish you health and happiness and success, I wish you a roof, four walls, a floor and someone in your life that you care about more than you care about yourself. Someone who makes you start saying “we” where before you used to say “I” and “us” where you used to say “me.”

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Today is May 13th, and today you graduate, and my friends, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Thank you, and congratulations.

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~ by irwin on May 17, 2012.

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