Jimmy Page Gives Commencement Address at Berklee; Students Perform Led Zep Classics for Him

Grad­u­a­tion sea­son is upon us and, last week­end, the great Jim­my Page had a busy week­end at the Berklee Col­lege of Music in Boston. The school gave the Led Zep­pelin gui­tarist an hon­orary doc­tor­al degree in music, before let­ting him present — or rather “busk” — a short com­mence­ment address to near­ly 900 hun­dred grad­u­ates at the Agga­n­is Are­na. But prob­a­bly the high­light came the night before, when Berklee stu­dents per­formed for Page, play­ing ren­di­tions of Kash­mir, Stair­way to Heav­en, Dazed and Con­fused and Whole Lot­ta Love, among oth­er Led Zep­pelin clas­sics. Hap­pi­ly, some footage from that per­for­mance has popped up on Face­book. Watch it right below:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jim­my Page Tells the Sto­ry of “Kash­mir”

Jim­my Page, 13, Plays Gui­tar on BBC Tal­ent Show (1957)

Led Zep­pelin Plays One of Its Ear­li­est Con­certs (Dan­ish TV, 1969)

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The Importance of Kindness: An Animation of George Saunders’ Touching Graduation Speech

Ever since he was first pub­lished in The New York­er back in 1992, George Saun­ders has been craft­ing a string of bril­liant short sto­ries that have rein­vent­ed the form. His sto­ries are dark, fun­ny, and satir­i­cal that then turn on a dime and become sur­pris­ing­ly mov­ing. And the mad­den­ing thing about him is that he makes such tonal dex­ter­i­ty look easy. Over the course of his career, he has won piles of awards includ­ing a MacArthur “Genius” Fel­low­ship in 2006. In 2013, his col­lec­tion of short sto­ries The Tenth of Decem­ber was select­ed by the New York Times as one of the best books of the year. You can read 10 sto­ries by Saun­ders free online here.

Last year, Saun­ders deliv­ered the con­vo­ca­tion speech for Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty where he teach­es writ­ing. Most such speech­es are dull and for­get­table or, as was the case when Ross Per­ot spoke at my grad­u­a­tion, inco­her­ent and churl­ish. Saunders’s speech, how­ev­er, was some­thing dif­fer­ent — a qui­et, self-effac­ing plea for empa­thy. When it was reprint­ed by the New York Times last July, the speech seem­ing­ly popped up on every third person’s Face­book feed.

Brook­lyn-based group Seri­ous Lunch has cre­at­ed an ani­mat­ed ver­sion of Saun­ders’ speech, voiced by the author him­self. You can watch it above and read along below. You’ll prob­a­bly want to call your mom or help an old lady across the street after­ward.

I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than try to be kinder.

In sev­enth grade, this new kid joined our class. In the inter­est of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty, her name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s‑eye glass­es that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When ner­vous, which was pret­ty much always, she had a habit of tak­ing a strand of hair into her mouth and chew­ing on it.

So she came to our school and our neigh­bor­hood, and was most­ly ignored, occa­sion­al­ly teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remem­ber the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a lit­tle gut-kicked, as if, hav­ing just been remind­ed of her place in things, she was try­ing, as much as pos­si­ble, to dis­ap­pear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.

Some­times I’d see her hang­ing around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.
And then – they moved. That was it. One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of sto­ry.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years lat­er, am I still think­ing about it? Rel­a­tive to most of the oth­er kids, I was actu­al­ly pret­ty nice to her. I nev­er said an unkind word to her. In fact, I some­times even (mild­ly) defend­ed her. But still, it both­ers me.

What I regret most in my life are fail­ures of kind­ness.

Those moments when anoth­er human being was there, in front of me, suf­fer­ing, and I responded…sensibly. Reserved­ly. Mild­ly.

Or, to look at it from the oth­er end of the tele­scope: Who, in your life, do you remem­ber most fond­ly, with the most unde­ni­able feel­ings of warmth?
Those who were kind­est to you, I bet.

But kind­ness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rain­bows and pup­py dogs, and expands to include … well, every­thing.

You can read Saunders’s entire speech here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Saun­ders Extols the Virtues of Kind­ness in 2013 Speech to Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Grads

10 Free Sto­ries by George Saun­ders, Author of Tenth of Decem­ber, “The Best Book You’ll Read This Year”

Oprah Winfrey’s Har­vard Com­mence­ment Speech: Fail­ure is Just Part of Mov­ing Through Life

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

“Wear Sunscreen”: The Story Behind the Commencement Speech That Kurt Vonnegut Never Gave

On June 1, 1997, Mary Schmich, Chica­go Tri­bune colum­nist and Bren­da Starr car­toon­ist, wrote a col­umn enti­tled “Advice, like youth, prob­a­bly just wast­ed on the young.” In her intro­duc­tion to the col­umn she described it as the com­mence­ment speech she would give to the class of ’97 if she were asked to give one.

The first line of the speech: “Ladies and gen­tle­men of the class of ’97: Wear sun­screen.”

If you grew up in the 90s, these words may sound famil­iar, and you would be absolute­ly right. Aus­tralian film direc­tor Baz Luhrmann used the essay in its entire­ty on his 1998 album Some­thing for Every­body, turn­ing it into his hit sin­gle “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sun­screen).” With spo­ken-word lyrics over a mel­low back­ing track by Zam­bian dance music per­former Roza­l­la, the song was an unex­pect­ed world­wide hit, reach­ing num­ber 45 on the Bill­board Hot 100 in the Unit­ed States and num­ber one in the Unit­ed King­dom.

The thing is, Luhrmann and his team did not real­ize that Schmich was the actu­al author of the speech until they sought out per­mis­sion to use the lyrics. They believed it was writ­ten by author Kurt Von­negut.

For Schmich, the “Sun­screen Con­tro­ver­sy” was “just one of those sto­ries that reminds you of the law­less­ness of cyber­space.” While no one knows the orig­i­na­tor of the urban leg­end, the sto­ry goes that Vonnegut’s wife, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er Jill Kre­mentz, had received an e‑mail in ear­ly August 1997 that pur­port­ed to reprint a com­mence­ment speech Von­negut had giv­en at MIT that year. (The actu­al com­mence­ment speak­er was the Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Kofi Annan.) “She was so pleased,” Mr. Von­negut lat­er told the New York Times. “She sent it on to a whole of peo­ple, includ­ing my kids – how clever I am.”

The pur­port­ed speech became a viral sen­sa­tion, bounc­ing around the world through e‑mail. This is how Luhrmann dis­cov­ered the text. He, along with Anton Mon­st­ed and Josh Abra­hams, decid­ed to use it for a remix he was work­ing on but was doubt­ful he could get Von­negut’s  per­mis­sion. While search­ing for the writer’s con­tact infor­ma­tion, Luhrmann dis­cov­ered that Schmich was the actu­al author. He reached out to her and, with her per­mis­sion, record­ed the song the next day.

What hap­pened between June 1 and ear­ly August, no one knows. For Von­negut, the con­tro­ver­sy cement­ed his belief that the Inter­net was not worth trust­ing. “I don’t know what the point is except how gullible peo­ple are on the Inter­net.” For Schmich, she acknowl­edged that her col­umn would prob­a­bly not had spread the way it did with­out the names of Von­negut and MIT attached to it.

In the end, Schmich and Von­negut did con­nect after she reached out to him to inform him of the con­fu­sion. Accord­ing to Von­negut, “What I said to Mary Schmich on the tele­phone was that what she wrote was fun­ny and wise and charm­ing, so I would have been proud had the words been mine.” Not a bad end­ing for a col­umn that was writ­ten, accord­ing to Schmich, “while high on cof­fee and M&Ms.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Shape of A Sto­ry: Writ­ing Tips from Kurt Von­negut

22-Year-Old P.O.W. Kurt Von­negut Writes Home from World War II: “I’ll Be Damned If It Was Worth It”

Kurt Von­negut Reads from Slaugh­ter­house-Five

George Saunders Extols the Virtues of Kindness in 2013 Speech to Syracuse University Grads

George_Saunders_by_David_Shankbone

Full dis­clo­sure: I love George Saun­ders. Can I say that? Can I say that George Saun­ders rekin­dled my faith in con­tem­po­rary fic­tion? Is that too fawn­ing? Obse­quious, but true! Oh, how bored I had become with fourth-hand deriv­a­tive Carv­er, cheap­ened Cheev­er, some­times the sad approx­i­ma­tions of Chuck Palah­niuk. So bor­ing. It had got­ten so all I could read was Philip K. Dick, over and over and over. And Alice Walk­er. And Wuther­ing Heights. And Thomas Hardy. Do you see the pass I’d come to? Then Saun­ders. In a writ­ing class I took, with one of Gor­don Lish’s acolytes (no names), I read Saun­ders. I read Wells Tow­ers, Pad­gett Pow­ell, Aimee Bender—a host of mod­ern writ­ers who were doing some­thing new, in short, some­times very short, forms, but explo­sive!

What is it about George Saun­ders that grips? He has mas­tered friv­o­li­ty, turned it into an art of dia­mond-like com­pres­sion. And for this, he gets a MacArthur Fel­low­ship? Well, yes. Because what he does is bril­liant, in its shock­ing­ly unaf­fect­ed obser­va­tions of human­i­ty. George Saun­ders is an accom­plished writer who puts lit­tle store in his accom­plish­ments. Instead, he val­ues kind­ness most of all, and gen­eros­i­ty. These are the qual­i­ties he extols, in his typ­i­cal­ly droll man­ner, in a grad­u­a­tion speech he deliv­ered to the 2013 grad­u­at­ing class at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty. Kind­ness: a lit­tle virtue, you might say. The New York Times has pub­lished his speech, and I urge you to read it in full. I’m going to give you half, below, and chal­lenge you to find George Saun­ders want­i­ng.

Down through the ages, a tra­di­tion­al form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dread­ful mis­takes (that would be me), gives heart­felt advice to a group of shin­ing, ener­getic young peo­ple, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tra­di­tion.

Now, one use­ful thing you can do with an old per­son, in addi­tion to bor­row­ing mon­ey from them, or ask­ing them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laugh­ing, is ask: “Look­ing back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Some­times, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Some­times, even when you’ve specif­i­cal­ly request­ed they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not real­ly.  Work­ing ter­ri­ble jobs, like “knuck­le-puller in a slaugh­ter­house?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skin­ny-dip­ping in a riv­er in Suma­tra, a lit­tle buzzed, and look­ing up and see­ing like 300 mon­keys sit­ting on a pipeline, poop­ing down into the riv­er, the riv­er in which I was swim­ming, with my mouth open, naked?  And get­ting death­ly ill after­wards, and stay­ing sick for the next sev­en months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occa­sion­al humil­i­a­tion?  Like once, play­ing hock­ey in front of a big crowd, includ­ing this girl I real­ly liked, I some­how man­aged, while falling and emit­ting this weird whoop­ing noise, to score on my own goalie, while also send­ing my stick fly­ing into the crowd, near­ly hit­ting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s some­thing I do regret:

In sev­enth grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the inter­est of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty, her Con­vo­ca­tion Speech name will be “ELLEN.”  ELLEN was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s‑eye glass­es that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When ner­vous, which was pret­ty much always, she had a habit of tak­ing a strand of hair into her mouth and chew­ing on it.

So she came to our school and our neigh­bor­hood, and was most­ly ignored, occa­sion­al­ly teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remem­ber the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a lit­tle gut-kicked, as if, hav­ing just been remind­ed of her place in things, she was try­ing, as much as pos­si­ble, to dis­ap­pear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imag­ined, after school, her moth­er would say, you know: “How was your day, sweet­ie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her moth­er would say, “Mak­ing any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Some­times I’d see her hang­ing around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final haz­ing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of sto­ry.

Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years lat­er, am I still think­ing about it?  Rel­a­tive to most of the oth­er kids, I was actu­al­ly pret­ty nice to her.  I nev­er said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I some­times even (mild­ly) defend­ed her.

But still.  It both­ers me.

So here’s some­thing I know to be true, although it’s a lit­tle corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are fail­ures of kind­ness. 

Those moments when anoth­er human being was there, in front of me, suf­fer­ing, and I responded…sensibly.  Reserved­ly.  Mild­ly.

Or, to look at it from the oth­er end of the tele­scope:  Who, in your life, do you remem­ber most fond­ly, with the most unde­ni­able feel­ings of warmth?

Those who were kind­est to you, I bet.

It’s a lit­tle facile, maybe, and cer­tain­ly hard to imple­ment, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Read the rest of Saun­ders’ speech here, and be moved. Try not to be.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10 Free Sto­ries by George Saun­ders, Author of Tenth of Decem­ber, “The Best Book You’ll Read This Year”

Oprah Winfrey’s Har­vard Com­mence­ment Speech: Fail­ure is Just Part of Mov­ing Through Life

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

David Byrne’s Graduation Speech Offers Troubling and Encouraging Advice for Students in the Arts


How could David Byrne nev­er have giv­en a com­mence­ment address before? As an expe­ri­enced pub­lic speak­er, a well-known cre­ator who has carved out his own cul­tur­al niche, an advo­cate of things (such as cycling) beloved among world-chang­ing young peo­ple, the founder of a band with a sur­pris­ing mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional appeal, and a man with no small com­mand of Pow­er­point, he’d seem to make an appeal­ing choice indeed. His first com­mence­ment address ever came this year at the Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of the Arts, and, view­able from 1:17:00 in the video above, it has cer­tain­ly made an impact in the inter­net. The mes­sage some grads and fans have tak­en away? “If you chose a career in the arts,” as the New York­er’s Rachel Arons puts it, “you are, basi­cal­ly, screwed.”

“A pie chart, based on 2011 data, showed that only three per cent of film and the­atre grads, and five per cent of writ­ing and visu­al-arts grads, end up work­ing in their areas of con­cen­tra­tion,” she writes of the visu­al aids deliv­er­ing Byrne’s grim ini­tial mes­sage. “A sub­se­quent bar graph showed that, accord­ing to those stats, four­teen writ­ing and four­teen Colum­bia visu­al-arts grad­u­ates will go on to careers in their fields, and eight the­atre and eight film grads will go on to careers in theirs.” But first­hand reports from the cer­e­mo­ny don’t describe a too ter­ri­bly shak­en Colum­bia grad­u­at­ing class, and even Byrne took pains to empha­size, or at least emphat­i­cal­ly imply, that tru­ly worth­while careers — such as, I would say, his own — lay out­side, or in between, or at the inter­sec­tion of, defin­able fields. And why would you want to work in the same field you stud­ied, any­way? To para­phrase some­thing Byrne’s friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor Bri­an Eno said about tech­nol­o­gy, once a whole major has built up around a pur­suit, it’s prob­a­bly not the most inter­est­ing thing to be doing any­more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Byrne: How Archi­tec­ture Helped Music Evolve

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

David Byrne Gives Us the Low­down on How Music Works (with Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Daniel Lev­itin)

How David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Make Music Togeth­er: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Oprah Winfrey’s Harvard Commencement Speech: Failure is Just Part of Moving Through Life

If you watch enough com­mence­ment speech­es, if you gath­er the col­lec­tive wis­dom of peo­ple who “have made it” in life, you start to see a trend. The key to life isn’t being smarter than the rest, though that does­n’t hurt. The key is resilience — your abil­i­ty to deal with inevitable fail­ures, learn from your mis­takes, dust your­self off emo­tion­al­ly, phys­i­cal­ly or finan­cial­ly, and then move for­ward. It’s eas­i­er said than done, but essen­tial. J.K. Rowl­ing, who went from home­less­ness to writ­ing Har­ry Pot­ter, deliv­ered that mes­sage at Har­vard sev­er­al years ago. Now Oprah Win­frey, who emerged from the Jim Crow South to become Amer­i­ca’s most endur­ing TV per­son­al­i­ty, returns to Har­vard to tell stu­dents her ver­sion of that sto­ry:

There is no such thing as fail­ure. Fail­ure is just life try­ing to move us in anoth­er direc­tion. Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like fail­ure. … Give your­self time to mourn what you think you may have lost, but then here’s the key: Learn from every mis­take because every expe­ri­ence, encounter and par­tic­u­lar­ly your mis­takes are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are. And then fig­ure out what is the next right move. And the key to life is to devel­op an inter­nal moral, emo­tion­al GPS that can tell you which way to go.

For more insights into con­struc­tive­ly man­ag­ing fail­ure, you can vis­it these talks below:

Paulo Coel­ho on The Fear of Fail­ure

Conan O’Brien’s Har­vard Grad­u­a­tion Speech

Stephen Fry: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 18

via Har­vard Gazette

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David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech “This is Water” Visualized in a Short Film

David Fos­ter Wal­lace was a hyper-anx­ious chron­i­cler of the minute details of a cer­tain kind of upper-mid­dle-class Amer­i­can life. In his hands, it took on some­times lumi­nous, some­times jaun­diced qual­i­ties. Wal­lace was also some­thing of a meta­physi­cian: reflec­tive teacher, wise-beyond-his-years thinker, and (trag­i­cal­ly in hind­sight) quite self-dep­re­cat­ing lit­er­ary super­star. In the lat­ter capac­i­ty, he was often called on to per­form the duties of a docent, admin­is­ter­ing com­mence­ment speech­es, for exam­ple, which he did for the grad­u­at­ing class of Keny­on in 2005.

He began with a sto­ry: two young fish meet an old­er fish, who asks them “How’s the water?” The younger fish look at each oth­er and say, “What the hell is water?” Fos­ter Wal­lace explains the sto­ry this way:

The point of the fish sto­ry is mere­ly that the most obvi­ous, impor­tant real­i­ties are often the ones that are hard­est to see and talk about. Stat­ed as an Eng­lish sen­tence, of course, this is just a banal plat­i­tude, but the fact is that in the day to day trench­es of adult exis­tence, banal plat­i­tudes can have a life or death impor­tance, or so I wish to sug­gest to you on this dry and love­ly morn­ing.

Fos­ter Wal­lace acknowl­edges that the anec­dote is a cliché of the genre of com­mence­ment speech­es. He fol­lows it up by chal­leng­ing, then re-affirm­ing, anoth­er cliché: that the pur­pose of a lib­er­al arts edu­ca­tion is to “teach you how to think.” The whole speech is well worth hear­ing.

In the video above, “This is Water,” The Glos­sary—“fine pur­vey­ors of stim­u­lat­ing videograms”—take an abridged ver­sion of the orig­i­nal audio record­ing and set it to a series of provoca­tive images. In their inter­pre­ta­tion, Fos­ter Wallace’s speech takes on the kind of mid­dle-class neu­ro­sis of David Fincher’s real­iza­tion of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

It’s a dystopi­an vision of post-grad life that brings vivid clar­i­ty to one of my men­tors’ pieces of advice: “There are two worst things: One, you don’t get a job. Two, you get a job.” Or one could always quote Mor­ris­sey: “I was look­ing for a job, and then I found a job. And heav­en knows I’m mis­er­able now.” I still haven’t fig­ured out what’s worse. I hope some of those Keny­on grads have.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Fos­ter Wallace’s 1994 Syl­labus: How to Teach Seri­ous Lit­er­a­ture with Light­weight Books

David Fos­ter Wal­lace: The Big, Uncut Inter­view (2003)

David Fos­ter Wal­lace Breaks Down Five Com­mon Word Usage Mis­takes in Eng­lish

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

Jon Stewart’s William & Mary Commencement Address: The Entire World is an Elective

In 1984, Jon Stew­art grad­u­at­ed from The Col­lege of William & Mary. In 1999, he began host­ing Com­e­dy Cen­tral’s news pro­gram The Dai­ly Show. In 2004, he returned to his alma mater, immea­sur­ably more influ­en­tial than he’d left it, to give its com­mence­ment address. Despite a dat­ed crack or two — this was the hey­day of George W. Bush, the Pres­i­dent who arguably gave Stew­art’s Dai­ly Show per­sona both its foil and rai­son d’être — the speech’s core remains sound. You, Stew­art tells the massed grad­u­ates, have the pow­er to become the next “great­est gen­er­a­tion,” though the chance appears espe­cial­ly clear and present because of how the last gen­er­a­tion “broke” the world. “It just kind of  got away from us,” he half-jokes, his grin com­pressed by seri­ous­ness. That admis­sion fol­lows a stream of self-dep­re­ca­tion hit­ting every­thing from his ten­den­cy toward pro­fan­i­ty to his unusu­al­ly large head as an under­grad­u­ate to how his pres­ence onstage deval­ues William & Mary’s very rep­u­ta­tion.

Whether or not you find the world bro­ken, or whether or not you believe that a gen­er­a­tion could break or fix it, Stew­art still packs a num­ber of worth­while obser­va­tions about the place into fif­teen min­utes. He per­haps deliv­ers his most valu­able words to these excit­ed, anx­ious school-leavers when he con­trasts the world to the aca­d­e­m­ic envi­ron­ment they’ve just left: “There is no core cur­ricu­lum. The entire place is an elec­tive.” Stew­art com­mu­ni­cates, as many com­mence­ment speak­ers try to but few do so clear­ly, that you can’t plan your way direct­ly to suc­cess in life, what­ev­er “suc­cess” might mean to you. He cer­tain­ly did­n’t. “If you had been to William and Mary while I was here and found out that I would be the com­mence­ment speak­er 20 years lat­er, you would be some­what sur­prised,” he admits. “And prob­a­bly some­what angry.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Conan O’Brien Kills It at Dart­mouth Grad­u­a­tion

Jon Stew­art: Teach­ers Have it Too Good (Wink)

‘This Is Water’: Com­plete Audio of David Fos­ter Wallace’s Keny­on Grad­u­a­tion Speech (2005)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

 

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.