When I graduated from New York University many years ago, the ceremony was held at Washington Square Park, just a few steps away from the college library. Although the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event seemed overwhelming at the time, it was a quaint ceremony compared NYU’s graduation this year at Yankee Stadium. Some things have changed!
Regardless of the venue, the fact remains that a college commencement is a life changing milestone for the graduates. The commencement speech given by the distinguished speaker may be the most memorable advice of their lifetime.
I thought about some of the best commencement speeches recently, and wondered what the planet would say if it was given an opportunity to speak at a graduation?
I bet it would go something like this…
To the recent graduates:
First of all, congratulations on making it through the last four years of your life unscathed. See, you may think these were the hardest years of your life — but I hate to tell you this; what you just experienced was a gift given to you on a silver platter — the good and the bad. You just had to show up. And I’m sure on some bleary-eyed, hungover mornings, you had trouble making it out of bed. But hey, that was a life lesson too.
I am here today to tell you that I have been waiting for you…
- to finish your education — so you can take charge and be the future leaders.
- to join the fight to slow down climate change — because I can’t take the heat
- to fix your laws to eliminate toxic chemicals from your products — they’re poisoning you…and me too
- to fix your food system so you are not eating tainted, genetically-modified organisms and artificial ingredients that are making you and your children sick — I need them to take care of me after you are gone
- to enforce the Clean Air Act, so you and your kids will breathe easier — I need healthy kids to play now and protect me later
- to please bring me some energy I can renew — show me you value my clean, renewable energy
You see, from now on, it’s not enough just to just show up. You need to be ready to work!
Oh, there’s much good still left in me for you to enjoy. But if we continue the path we are on now, I’m afraid there won’t be enough for your generation, or the next, to enjoy a healthy long life. And I hate to say it — your parents and grandparents screwed up. I know they are really sorry about that. But I also know your generation has the scientific knowledge, passion, tenacity…and now, the power to help reverse the damage of climate change. Let’s not repeat your parents mistakes.
I know your education taught you to be fine stewards, responsible citizens and to respect me. I know your parents showed you how conserve resources for the future — they are beginning to see the big picture now. But the hardest part, and the most rewarding part, is for you to take action with the tools you’ve acquired — and get all your friends involved too. You will need them on your team!
My hope for you is that your future will be full of compassion, social consciousness, and sustainable living.
I look forward to watching you become strong leaders and quiet visitors to my home.
With profound love and respect,