A Disappointment-Prone World?
After my previous post on Aaron Sorkin’s commencement speech, I became more intrigued by such speeches and in the course of my ‘research’, I came across this interesting article by Time which writes about how to give a commencement speech – what to say, what not to say. It also cites how every commencement speaker gives examples of minor missteps, mostly to prove they’re human, with examples like J.K. Rowling (“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”) and Steve Jobs (“What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me.”)
The writer goes on to observe that in today’s disappointment-prone world, where students will emerge with insurmountable debt and rampant uncertainty about their life’s paths, commencement speakers do well to focus on the disappointments in life, with the underlying message that there are better days ahead. It’s OK, they can handle it – they’ve dealt with four years of professors piling us with endless work in classes for which they burned the textbook the day after the final. Graduates want to hear it like it is. So why shouldn’t speakers tell it?