The most influential speech of the last few years, still remains college dropout Steve Job's speech to 2005 Stanford grads. Job's advice: find what you love to do.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told students at Catholic University this month to live life boldy, and develop off-line relationships. "Ladies and gentlemen, you can not kiss a cursor."
Venture capitalist John Doerr responded to Rice University students' requested '07 speech topics: life and love. "It's easy to lose track of life's priorities." He learned he could accept failing as a venture capitalist, but he could not fail his family.
Oprah Winfrey's advice to '07 Howard University grads: maintain your principles and serve others. "My integrity is not for sale, and neither is yours." Her grandmother, a servant in 1950s Mississippi, hoped that Winfrey would "get some good white folks" to work for. "I regret that she didn't live past 1963 and see that I did get some really good white folks--working for me."
There are still speeches to come, but these are precious, priceless, profound and...some are just puffery --
Duke's '07 address by Rick Wagoner, chairman and ceo of General Motors who is on the Board of Duke and whose Dad was a Duker and his dog is named Duke: "… don’t over-plan your life. While planning for your future is great, the fact is, things change… be open to everything the world has to offer… be global."
Gen. John Abizaid's 07 speech to Virginia Tech's grads: "character in crisis matters" --Adversity has a way of challenging all of us sooner or later. How we bear Adversity's seemingly insurmountable challenges marks how others will judge us; indeed it marks how we will judge ourselves.
Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and author (of The World is Flat) Thomas Friedman to Rensselaer’s '07 class: ...When the world is this flat, with this many distributed tools of innovation, what you will imagine is going to matter so much more because you can now act on your imagination, as individuals, so much faster, farther, deeper, and cheaper.”
(satire) -The Ultimate Commencement Speech from The Morning News: Get married as soon as possible and not everyone needs a blog.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the address at the University of Oklahoma in the state's centennial year '07. The photo at top is Bloomberg with University of Oklahoma's President, former Senator David Boren. Bloomberg says he was "the kind of student who made the top half of the class possible." He plugged the university by noting it has one of the highest numbers of Rhodes Scholars in the nation and the highest number of National Merit Scholars per capita in the nation. He urged students to take risks and quoted the famous Oklahoman, Cherokee Indian Will Rogers: 'Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.' The five things he says are needed for a successful life: take risks, don't go it alone, respect others, invest in the future, and give it to them straight.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the 9/11 man, delivered the address at The Citadel: "You are the 9/11 generation of service..."
The dual commencement address given by Ex-Presidents Bush, 82, and Clinton, 60, in New Hampshire this weekend had today's Odd Couple making news. It is more newsworthy that these two have partnered up than what they said (mainly about working together and having common endeavors).
John Edwards called for an end to the war in a commencement speech at New England College on the same day he launched a new website, which outlines his plan to end the unpopular, 4-year-old war. (yawn, yawn, sigh.)
Barack Obama's speech to the graduating class of Southern New Hampshire University: he decried the political and media culture that he said prizes the inconsequential at the expense of the important. "We see . . . a media culture that sensationalizes the trivial and trivializes the profound in a 24-hour news network bonanza that never fails to keep us posted on how many days Paris Hilton will spend in jail..."
Hillary Clinton used her commencement address to make a political statement at Dillard University. She outlined the steps she said she would take as president to ensure that New Orleans is rebuilt.
My favorite quote is still Hillary Clinton's 2001 line to Yale law school grads, “Hair matters,” she said. “Your hair will send significant messages to those around you . . . . Pay attention to your hair.” Have you noticed that she finally found her hair groove and she is sticking to it?
The most common sense advice came from Texan Christian University Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr. speaking to TCU's largest ever graduating class of Horned Frogs: real life has no spring breaks, never make a credit decision on a beach and:
-- Don't confuse reality shows for Reality. You can't vote a troublesome co-worker or difficult neighbor off the island. You have to work it out.
-- Never wear flip-flops after the temperature drops below freezing.
-- Life isn't on the semester plan. You don't get a fresh start every 12 weeks.
-- Be a little more charitable in all your actions to others and you will reap a lifetime of close family ties and lifelong friends.
The most unusual interesting address I came across was by Wayne Coyne of the band Flaming Lips in his address to the 2006 class at Classen High School in Oklahoma City -- a school he attended but from which he did not graduate (it is now a magnet school filled with artists). He submitted his speech but was not there physically to give it and it is one of the top listed graduation speeches on YouTube. Here is his advice: "I felt that I was learning more from my life experiences than I was from my class and teachers....We can not know what we will become, but we can control what we do." Instead of becoming a drug dealer, he said, he began to pursue art and music and found something he really, really loved. "We are not what we dream, we are what we do. All we have is action. We can really only learn from experience." Then, what use is all this knowledge? Knowledge tells us what we think. It is a combination of thinking and doing. Thinking and learning leads to understanding and that leads to doing. Being free is being allowed to fail."
My daughter and her friends today told me that they would like to see these topics addressed at high school graduations: how to balance work and play; and not to be afraid of failure, not to be afraid to take risks - not everything is going to work out.
So, love what what you do, you can fail on your hairdos or other ventures, learn from mistakes and move on. Lessons are learned in failure and don't be afraid to take risks. And, listen to your mother.