‘Tis the season for people to sit in hot black robes and listen to vague motivational pomptitude (and circumstanitude).
Out there in the cultural zeitgeist, I think there are three commencement addresses that are worth your time. These three are good; not only for recent graduates, but also for anyone who needs some business motivation.
To satisfy the Apple fanboys, I’ll list Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address first. It consists of three stories, and I like the first one best. You never know what connections from the past will come together to create new ideas. Here’s the text of the speech or you can watch it here.
Conan O’Brien’s 2000 Harvard address is mostly jokes and very funny. (naturally) But it actually contains one of the best messages that a twenty-something or anyone can learn: Failure is necessary to succeed.
The quality of the video below is poor so you’ll find the text version is better.
The odd thing about Conan’s speech is that he gave it about ten years before the Leno / Tonight Show fiasco. It’s been his only commencement speech until this year when Conan is scheduled to address the graduates of Dartmouth. It will be interesting if he expands on his theme. (UPDATE: He did.)
“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was originally a 1997 column in the Chicago Tribune, but Baz Luhrmann reworked the column as a spoken word / musical track on an album. The track became a worldwide radio hit in the summer of 1999. It became an ear rut for me that year in my radio days. The lyrics contain many truths.
One of the final verses of Sunscreen pretty much captures the essence of all commencement addresses…
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.