March 07, 2011
An Informal Commencement Speech
I wanted to write this speech in rhyme.
I wanted to write this speech in rhyme
So I could pretend that I was on time
To tell you these next few lines,
I wanted to deliver it fast
Say the words quick but make them last
Because I know that it’s already
Most of what I’ve learned
I wish I knew four years ago
Most of what I would say
You already know.
I’m not here to inspire or to set the mood.
Not going to tell you to change your attitude
I’m here to highlight the sunset we’re walking into.
Maybe give voice to our fears, and everything we’ve been through.
To close the final curtain
And roll the red carpet out.
Do my best to describe what this is all about.
These words may not touch you, you may not remember this day
And everything I say will probably be a waste.
Because the truth is we’re done listening
And all of these words
Are falling flat on our ears
Compared to the years.
Because we’ve spent too much time with each other and ourselves
For me to preach or to teach or even
Reach your attention today.
Because today if I told you
That ‘x’ equals ‘y’, or that ‘i’ comes before ‘e’
I’d be a fool.
I stepped into this world
Hoping to discover
What I wanted from me
What I wanted from we
And to find a way that we could be
In this tiny little room
Which won’t be that small soon,
when we’re gone.
We’ve spent 4 years dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s
And sometimes it’s like it was just for the fees
Like a dirty disease
Let us learn what we need”
I would sometimes cry.
“Not because we paid
And not for the grade,
But so one day we could make a change.”
Tomorrow we’ll be real
Real people with jobs and dreams
Throw our hats in the air and let down our hair…
Because tomorrow we won’t have someone else to label us
As students or toddlers or passengers on a bus
We’ll define ourselves and our lives
We’ll set goals and dig holes
We’ll be alone.
And I’m scared.
Some of us will think we’re better
Smarter or faster or stronger
Than the rest.
I’ll be one of those. I’ll think I’m the best.
But if I do what I do without you and without us, chipping away
At the end of the day, I still won’t have done much.
But instead of isolation if I seek cooperation
If I ask you what you care about and share myself
If we come to a conclusion that we reach ourselves,
Instead of being spoon fed the answers in multiple choice
Maybe we can make a difference or just have a voice.
And that’s really all it takes to be heard.
We’re all here for a reason, for most of us it’s the same
It’s a silly piece of paper that we’ll put in a frame
We’ll trick our minds into believing it’s worth it,
Tell ourselves that the exams were all part of the game
And games were meant to be won.
And we’ll get stuck in the race chasing a dollar or the next big thing.
Or even something that we believe in.
But somehow, it doesn’t make sense.
Chasing and chasing and chasing.
Like dogs after cars that don’t exist.
Resist this need. I urge you my friends.
Play the game to play and not to win.
Play the game to learn what drives you
But not to win
Play the game to figure out the things that matter.
But not to win.
Because when we win, that’s all there is.
Instead we can play and smile all the way.
Wherever we go and however we get there
It won’t be about you or even me, to be fair.
It’ll be about us. And the journey we made.
So forget about struggle, because everyone has pain.
But instead let’s ask what we can change.
What we can do from this point on that’ll make the game and the frame
all worth it.
When we flip these tassels in a minute
We’ll be for real.
Real people with values and ideals.
It’s not like we didn’t already have those, we did.
But in a couple of hours they’ll feel a little stronger,
And every moment we wait will feel a little longer.
We’ll be free to be alone.
And I’m not scared.
Even though I’m not fully prepared,
Four years were enough to make me some friends. Friends who care.
They’re all of you, I must not forget.
We might not have met, but we’re all in this room.
And that counts for something.
So to all of us here, I’ll raise a cheer
So everyone can hear, and be without fear
Because after all, we’re all in this room.
And that counts for something.
I wrote this speech in rhyme
So it would feel like there was rhythm
and music around.
Like this was a celebration of everything we’re about to do.
Because the piece of paper we’ve won doesn’t mean a whole lot, we’re not done.
We’ve just begun.