commencement speakers

I arrived home to California yesterday from St. Louis, Missouri, after attending my son’s graduation from Washington University in chemical engineering. (Woot Woot!)

As part of graduating from college (as well as high school), my son and other students are bombarded with life advice.

For college graduates, the idea is that you are now moving out of the structured, sheltered world of academia and into the “real world.”

Colleges and universities recruit notable and often famous speakers at the commencement ceremonies to share their advice and insights.

It took me a few minutes to recognize the speaker at my son’s commencement, an iconic Civil Rights activist named John Lewis.

Usually, these types of speeches go in one ear and out for me.

But this year, Lewis’ speech and several others around the country this past weekend have made me reflect on my own path, even at the ripe age of 55!

Whether you are closing in on your high school graduation, or are fresh out of college like my son, or someone like myself who has already followed a long and winding career path, I thought you might enjoy and find inspiration from these speakers.

Congressman Lewis, who is one of the last surviving Civil Rights champions from the ’60s and days of Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a famous speech during the historic March on Washington (D.C.) in 1963. He was also brutally beaten in 1961 when both black and white college students arrived in busses to take a stand for equality in Montgomery, Alabama.

His call for peace and racial harmony was especially poignant at Washington University last Friday since the campus is within 15 minutes of the recent racial clashes in Ferguson, Missouri.

My favorite quote from his keynote speech was when he urged his audience to stand up against whatever is not right.

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.”

 

During the last couple weeks, the Internet was flooded with quotes and videos from other commencement addresses and life advice.

My favorite was this lecture by political pundit Robert Reich at UC Berkeley, given to his senior class on World Poverty just a few days ago.

If you are thinking about your life, and enjoy learning new ideas on how to make mindful decisions, this is worth watching.

 

 

If you want some more life inspiration, check out this short video by film director Steven Spielberg. I love the part about listening to “the whisper.”

 

 

And this, something that popped up recently on my personal Facebook newsfeed, is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE of all this life advice on finding your path—both personal and professional.

 

 

If you enjoy these speeches, here’s a link to The 5 Best Commencement Addresses of 2016, by both Barack and Michelle Obama, VP Biden, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. And John Lewis.