Commencement Address

Let Us Commence

Pretty good commencement address, worth sharing.

Taken From:

At the Berkeley graduation I told the students that the secret to success was simple – ignore your parents’ expectations, give money to the ACLU, and find out the truth about who you are.
By Anne Lamott

I am honored and surprised that you asked me to speak today.

This must be a magical day for you. I wouldnâ??t know. I accidentally forgot to graduate from college. I meant to, 30 years ago, but things got away from me. I did graduate from high school, though â?? do I get a partial credit for that? Although, unfortunately, my father had forgotten to pay the book bill, so at the graduation ceremony, when I opened the case to see my diploma, it was empty. Except for a ransom note that said, see Mrs. Foley, the bookkeeper, if you ever want to see your diploma alive again.

I went to Goucher College in Maryland for the best possible reasons â?? to learn â?? but then I dropped out at 19 for the best possible reasons â?? to become a writer. Those of you who have read my work know that instead, I accidentally became a Kelly girl for a while. Then, In a dazzling career move, I got hired as a clerk typist in the Nuclear Quality Assurance Department at Bechtel, where I worked typing and sorting triplicate forms. I hate to complain, but it was not very stimulating work. But it paid the bills, so I could write my stories every night when I got home. I worked at Bechtel for six months â?? but I had nothing to do with the current administrationâ??s shameless war profiteering. I just sorted triplicate forms. Youâ??ve got to believe me.

It was a terrible job, at which I did a terrible job, but it paid $600 a month, which was enough to pay my rent and bills. This is the real fly in the ointment if you are crazy enough to want to be an artist â?? you have to give up your dreams of swimming pools and fish forks, and take any old job. At 20, I got hired at a magazine as an assistant editor, and I think that was the last real job Iâ??ve ever had.

I bet Iâ??m beginning to make your parents really nervous â?? here I am sort of bragging about being a dropout, and unemployable, and secretly making a pitch for you to follow your creative dreams, when what they want is for you to do well in your field, make them look good, and maybe also make a tiny fortune.

But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether youâ??re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

At some point I finally started getting published, and experiencing a meager knock-kneed standing in the literary world, and I started to get almost everything that many of you graduates are hoping for â?? except for the money.

I got a lot of things that society had promised would make me whole and fulfilled â?? all the things that the culture tells you from preschool on will quiet the throbbing anxiety inside you â?? stature, the respect of colleagues, maybe even a kind of low-grade fame. The culture says these things will save you, as long as you also manage to keep your weight down. But the culture lies.

Slowly, after dozens of rejection slips and failures and false starts and postponed dreams â?? what Langston Hughes called dreams deferred â?? I stepped onto the hallowed ground of being a published novelist, and then 15 years later, I even started to make real money.

Iâ??d been wanting to be a successful author my whole life. But when I finally did it, I was like a greyhound catching the mechanical rabbit sheâ??d been chasing all her life â?? metal, wrapped up in cloth. It wasnâ??t alive; it had no spirit. It was fake. Fake doesnâ??t feed anything. Only spirit feeds spirit, in the same way only your own blood type can sustain you. It had nothing that could slake the lifelong thirst I had for a little immediacy, and connection.

So from the wise old pinnacle of my 49 years, I want to tell you that what youâ??re looking for is already inside you. Youâ??ve heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You canâ??t buy it, lease it, rent it, date it or apply for it. The best job in the world canâ??t give it to you. Neither can success, or fame, or financial security â?? besides which, there ainâ??t no such thing. J.D. Rockefeller was asked, â??How much money is enough?â?? and he said, â??Just a little bit more.â??

So it can be confusing â?? most of your parents want you to do well, to be successful. They want you to be happy â?? or at least happy-ish. And they want you to be nicer to them; just a little nicer â?? is that so much to ask?

They want you to love, and be loved, and to find peace, and to laugh and find meaningful work. But they also â?? some of them â?? a few of them â?? not yours â?? yours are fine â?? they also want you to chase the bunny for a while. To get ahead, sock some away, and then find a balance between the greyhound bunny-chase, and savoring your life.

But the thing is that you donâ??t know if youâ??re going to live long enough to slow down, relax, and have fun, and discover the truth of your spiritual identity. You may not be destined to live a long life; you may not have 60 more years to discover and claim your own deepest truth â?? like Breaker Morant said, you have to live every day as if itâ??s your last, because one of these days, youâ??re bound to be right.

So I thought it might help if I just went ahead and told you what I think is the truth of your spiritual identity â?¦

Actually, I donâ??t have a clue.

I do know you are not what you look like, or how much you weigh, or how you did in school, and whether you get to start a job next Monday or not. Spirit isnâ??t what you do, itâ??s â?¦ well, again, I donâ??t actually know. They probably taught this junior year at Goucher. But I know that you feel it best when youâ??re not doing much â?? when youâ??re in nature, when youâ??ve very quiet, or, paradoxically, listening to music.

I know you can feel it and hear it in the music you love, in the bass line, in the harmonies, in the silence between notes; in Chopin and Eminem, Emmylou Harris, Bach, whoever. You can close your eyes and feel the divine spark, concentrated in you, like a little Dr. Seuss firefly. It flickers with aliveness and relief, like an American in a foreign country who suddenly hears someone speaking in English. In the Christian tradition, they say that the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows. And so you pay attention when that Dr. Seuss creature inside you sits up and says, â??Yo!â??

We can see spirit made visible in people being kind to each other, especially when itâ??s a really busy person, taking care of a needy annoying person. Or even if itâ??s terribly important you, stopping to take care of pitiful, pathetic you. In fact, thatâ??s often when we see spirit most brightly.

Itâ??s magic to see spirit largely because itâ??s so rare. Mostly you see the masks and the holograms that the culture presents as real. You see how youâ??re doing in the worldâ??s eyes, or your familyâ??s, or â?? worst of all â?? yours, or in the eyes of people who are doing better than you â?? much better than you â?? or worse. But you are not your bank account, or your ambitiousness. Youâ??re not the cold clay lump with a big belly you leave behind when you die. Youâ??re not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are spirit, you are love, and, while it is increasingly hard to believe during this presidency, you are free. Youâ??re here to love, and be loved, freely. If you find out next week that you are terminally ill â?? and weâ??re all terminally ill on this bus â?? all that will matter is memories of beauty, that people loved you, and you loved them, and that you tried to help the poor and innocent.

So how do we feed and nourish our spirit, and the spirit of others?

First, find a path, and a little light to see by. Every single spiritual tradition says the same three things: 1) Live in the now, as often as you can, a breath here, a moment there. 2) You reap exactly what you sow. 3) You must take care of the poor, or you are so doomed that we canâ??t help you.

You donâ??t have to go overseas. There are people right here who are poor in spirit; worried, depressed, dancing as fast as they can, whose kids are sick, or whose retirement savings are gone. There is great loneliness among us, life-threatening loneliness. People have given up on peace, on equality. Theyâ??ve even given up on the Democratic Party, which I havenâ??t, not by a long shot. You do what you can, what good people have always done: You bring thirsty people water; you share your food, you try to help the homeless find shelter, you stand up for the underdog.

Anything that can help you get your sense of humor back feeds the spirit, too. In the Bill Murray army movie â??Stripes,â?? a very tense recruit announces during his platoonâ??s introductions, â??My name is Francis. No one calls me Francis. Anyone calls me Francis, Iâ??ll kill them. And I donâ??t like to be touched â?? anyone tries to touch me, Iâ??ll kill them.â?? And the sergeant responds, â??Oh, lighten up, Francis.â?? So you may need to upgrade your friends. You need to find people who laugh gently at themselves, who remind you gently to lighten up.

Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down. Some of you start jobs Monday; some of you desperately wish you did â?? some of your parents are asthmatic with anxiety that you donâ??t. They shared this with me before the ceremony began.

But again, this is not your problem. If your family is hell-bent on you making a name for yourself in the field of, say, molecular cell biology, then maybe when youâ??re giving them a final tour of campus, you can show them to the admissions office. I doubt very seriously that they could even get into U.C. Berkeley â?? I talked to a professor who said there is not a chance he could get in these days.

So I would recommend that you all just take a long deep breath, and stop. Just be where your butts are, and breathe. Take some time. You are graduating today. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is trying to shame you into hopping right back up onto the rat exercise wheel.

Rest, but pay attention. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is stealing your freedom, your personal and civil liberties, and then smirking about it. Iâ??m not going to name names. Just send money to the ACLU whenever you can.

But slow down if you can. Better yet, lie down.

In my 20s I devised a school of relaxation that has unfortunately fallen out of favor in the ensuing years â?? it was called Prone Yoga. You just lie around as much as possible. You could read, listen to music, you could space out, or sleep. But you had to be lying down. Maintaining the prone.

Youâ??ve graduated. You have nothing left to prove, and besides, itâ??s a foolâ??s game. If you agree to play, youâ??ve already lost. Itâ??s Charlie Brown and Lucy, with the football. If you keep getting back on the field, they win. There are so many great things to do right now. Write. Sing. Rest. Eat cherries. Register voters. And â?? oh my God â?? I nearly forgot the most important thing: refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me youâ??ll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much youâ??ve just eaten. The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.

So bless you. Youâ??ve done an amazing thing. And you are loved; you are capable of lives of great joy and meaning. Itâ??s what you are made of. And itâ??s what youâ??re for. So take care of yourselves; take care of each other. Thank you.[/quote]

Assuming anyone takes college seriously, success in the real world (success as defined by most parents) depends on more factors than taking the well-worn path.

I don’t like everything she said, but thinking outside the box and really standing by your integrity will help you find you way… and sometimes the calling you may have missed had you stayed on the path.

Good address. Nice change from the usual bullshit the older generation spews.

Same old self-serving crap. boo-boo-booooooo Get off the stage.

[quote]Brother Chris wrote:
Same old self-serving crap. boo-boo-booooooo Get off the stage.[/quote]

I would think you’d have at least agreed with the part of giving to the poor and those less fortunate (as Jesus commanded).


I liked this one enough to clip it and put it up in my kitchen.

Ten Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:

[quote]Brother Chris wrote:
Same old self-serving crap. boo-boo-booooooo Get off the stage.[/quote]

I would think you’d have at least agreed with the part of giving to the poor and those less fortunate (as Jesus commanded).


I saw that she talked about the things every spiritual (read: religious) tradition teaches, I do not disagree with giving to the poor. I believe it is a moral imperative. I just think her intentions are self-serving.

Basic jist of speech:

Don’t listen to your parents.
Do what you want.
Before you do, lay around a lot.
Give to charity so people will think you were awesome when you die.

The whole thing seems to be, about self-gratification. Man was made for more than self-service (I’m not saying that the things above are bad to do, except maybe the last one) he was made for giving.

[quote]123rd Annual Commencement Address
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
East Portico, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
May 12, 2012

Cardinal Wuerl, our eminent chancellor;

President Garvey, officers of the administration and distinguished faculty; especially rightly radiant class of 2012, with your family and friends, now proud alumni of this venerable and renowned university:

Thanks for your gracious invitation and warm welcome; thanks for the honor you bestow upon me, in company with Father Julian Carrón, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Carmen Ana Casal de Unanue, and Joseph A. Unanue; thanks especially for being true to the noble mission of this great university; and thanks, class of 2012, for the hope and promise you give all of us. Congratulations!

You’re welcome. I was in charge of the weather. This is the first time I have worn red since I was made a cardinal. I forgot my red sash. Luckily Cardinal Wuerl has an extra … well, two extras.

I came to this University the same year Colonel Brooks Tavern opened. I may have spent more time there than Mullen Library.

I do this quite a bit ? speaking at commencements. I enjoy it. This spring alone I have or will give three university commencement addresses, two at our high schools, one at an eighth grade occasion, and even an address at Pre-K graduation. Bring ?em on! I love them!

But this one this morning is especially meaningful for me, as I myself am a proud and grateful alumnus of this institution of highest learning, having left here thirty years ago . . . and just finished paying my tuition . . . sorry to bring that up! . . .; and because I am deeply grateful, as a Catholic, and as an American, for the iconic value of this, The Catholic University of America.

Just six days ago, Pope Benedict XVI, in addressing bishops from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, spoke warmly of Catholic education here in the United States, and of the need of our Catholic colleges and universities ? . . . to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church?s mission in service to the Gospel.?

The Holy Father showed a somber realism, though, when he expanded that need to include ? . . . ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church?s educational apostolate, becoming all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church?s pastoral leadership . . .?

Is not a big part of our gladness and pride this happy morning of graduation a grateful recognition that this university does indeed exude such ?ecclesial communion and solidarity?? That this university is both Catholic and American, flowing from the most noble ideals of truth and respect for human dignity that are at the heart of our Church and our country? That a university?s genuine greatness comes not from pursuing what is most chic, recent, or faddish, but what is most timeless, true, good, and beautiful in creation and creatures? That the true goal of a university is to prepare a student not only for a career but for fullness of life here and in eternity?

Some might wonder if Pope Benedict?s description of a university is way too impractical; if a university can be really Catholic and American; if the genuine freedom a university demands can flourish on a campus whose very definition includes a loyalty to Holy Mother Church . . . well, to them I say, as you and I did, ?Let them come to Brookland!? This university you can now, with me, call alma mater, at the heart of our nation, is also ex corde ecclesiae, at the heart of the Church. For that I am most proud.

The Holy Father mentions not only truth as being at the core of the mission of a Catholic university, but also love. And so I want to tell you about a wonderful woman named Clara Almazo. Just a little over a month ago, Clara and her little eight year old grandson, Michael, were walking home from Holy Thursday Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish on Staten Island. As they crossed the street, a car barreled toward them, with little Michael in the crosshairs. His abuela, Grandma Clara, pushed her grandson away to safety, taking herself the whole force of the car, and was instantly killed.

Clara?s selfless act of heroic love was, as you might imagine, the tearful talk of New York over the Easter weekend. No one failed to note that her life-giving act was made the more poignant as it came on the night before Jesus died, returning from the Mass of the Lord?s Last Supper, when He predicted His own sacrificial death, and where he gave the touching example of selfless service in washing the feet of His apostles.

When I celebrated her funeral on Easter Tuesday, every one of her 13 children and 23 grandchildren were profoundly sad; but not one of them was surprised, for through their sobs, they told me she was a woman of constant, heroic, selfless giving.

Jesus Christ . . . His Church . . . this university . . . Clara Almazo . . . truth . . . love . . . the words of Pope Benedict . . . the achievement and the hopes of the Class of 2012 . . .

Let me try to bring all of these together with the coherence I learned at this University.

Might I suggest these all coalesce in what we call the Law of the Gift.

?Greater love than this no one has, than to give one?s life for one?s friends.? There?s the Law of the Gift as defined by the Son of God Himself.

?It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.? There?s the Law of the Gift as chanted by St. Francis.

“I know Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life for others. I understand well the meaning of the cross. I am ready to give up my life for my people.” There’s the Law of the Gift as stated by Shabaz Bhatti, a Catholic who served as federal minister for religious minorities in Pakistan.

?For we are at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for another.? There?s the Law of the Gift as described by Blessed John Paul II.

Not long ago at a dinner I sat next to Admiral Mike Mullen, a Marine, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, himself a Catholic, who asked me, ?What percent of the American population is Catholic??

I replied, ?I’m not sure exactly but I think about 24%.?

?But do you realize,? he went on, ?that 40% of the Marine Corps identify themselves as Catholic??

I did not realize that, but I was not surprised, nor was Admiral Mullen, for at the heart of the Church?s ethos is the Law of the Gift, and it would be tough to be a Marine ? or to be an abuela like Clara Almazo ? if you didn?t believe in that.

Or, as the head of the department of pediatric oncology at a leading hospital recently told me, ?Cardinal Dolan I?m not even a religious believer, but, when I hire doctors, nurses, attendants, or staff for this grueling work of trying to heal kids with cancer, the applicants who are alumni of Catholic school have a leg up.?

I didn?t know that either, but, I?m hardly surprised, for, while it?s sure not listed in any catalogue, the course on the Law of the Gift is part of the DNA of any Catholic school, this sterling one included.

So, I conclude that all of you, at this university where every classroom features the most effective audio-visual aid of them all, the crucifix; and where the entire campus is overshadowed by the dome of the shrine devoted to the Jewish woman who whispered, ?Be it done unto me according to your will, not mine,? that I?m looking out at graduates who have majored in this Law of the Gift.

Now, let?s be clear: I?m hardly claiming that Catholics have sole ?bragging rights? on fostering, protecting, and obeying this Law of the Gift. The exaltation of selfless, sacrificial love and service is at the marrow of every religion, and, as a matter of fact,on the ground floor of most purely humanistic values.

However, even our critics admit that a particularly pointed contribution that religion, that the Church, that faith makes to any enduring culture, society, or nation is that it has a honed talent to foster, protect, and obey the Law of the Gift.

Without the Law of the Gift we have no Marines, fewer effective pediatric oncologists, and no Clara Almazos or Shabaz Bhattis. Religion, faith, the Church promote a culture built on the Law of the Gift. Thus, wise people from Alexis de Tocqueville to John Courtney Murray ? both of whose work I was forced to read while a student here ? have observed that an essential ingredient in American wisdom and the genius of the American republic is the freedom it allows for religion to flourish. Thus would I predict that a challenge you, class of 2012, will inevitably face is the defense of religious freedom as part of both our American and creedal legacy.

Now, one final thing: You all had a head-start in learning the Law of the Gift and the importance of faith to sustain it.

For, see, the Law of the Gift is most poetically exemplified in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, intimate union of a man and woman in marriage, which then leads to the procreation of new life in babies, so that husband and wife, now father and mother, spend their lives sacrificially loving and giving to those children. That union ? that sacred rhythm of man/woman/husband/wife/baby/mother/father ? is so essential to the order of the common good that its very definition is ingrained into our interior dictionary, that its protection and flourishing is the aim of enlightened culture.

And your tutelage in the Law of the Gift, class of 2012, was only refined here at this Catholic University, for it began in the most sublime classroom of them all, your home and family, under the most significant of all professors, your mom and dad. Congratulations, parents of our graduates!

That we are at our best when we give ourselves away in love to another ? the Law of the Gift ? is I?m afraid, ?counter-cultural? today, in an era that prefers getting to giving, and entitlement to responsibility; in a society that considers every drive, desire, or urge as a right, and where convenience and privacy can trump even the right to life itself; and in a mindset where freedom is reduced to the liberty to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever, however, with whomever we want, rather than the duty to do what we ought . . .well, the Law of the Gift can be as ignored as a yellow traffic light in New York City.

At one of the eighth grade commencements I attended, as referred to earlier, the fourteen year old student speaker called his classmates to pay attention to the words of John F. Kennedy, fifty-two years ago, observing that the temptations he and his classmates were facing now is to ask what your family, your friends, your church, and your country can do for you, rather than what you can do for them.

Not bad advice at all, leading me to conclude that this parish grade school was also granting degrees in the Law of the Gift.

So, I praise God that I look out at graduates in admiration, affection, and appreciation among whom are new Clara Almazos, children of beaming parents, alumni of a university where goodness, truth, and beauty reign and where every student majors in the Law of the Gift.

Congratulations, class of 2012![/quote]

Much better CS. I’ll say that the first one was far better than my own, no doubt.