There are many brilliant commencement addresses available to hear or read. People would learn quite a lot by studying them. If I am ever asked to deliver such a speech this is what I would like to say.
Learned educators, administrators, and proud guests. Welcome. Enjoy today. While I appreciate your importance, this address is for the graduates. The rest of you may doze off if you like. I will take no offense.
Graduates, thank you for allowing me to talk to you today. It is a propitious time in your lives. Seize the opportunity and use it to grow. Become a better, more functional and useful person. Life is about contributing. Your skill, your energy, your passion. What you get back involves how you choose to apply your gifts and how well you can negotiate.
Your education is only part of what will allow you to be successful when you leave here. Commencement is a beginning. A transition. A commencement speaker’s job is to add something practical to the education and provide insights and context for the transition.
These ideas may serve you as you join the real world. You will flourish there subject only to your own preferences and such limits as you have not yet addressed.
Welcome! You belong here.
Over the years I have learned things about speaking to an audience; sometimes an audience of just one. Think client, boss, spouse, child, and neighbour for the audience of one.
- To be seen, stand up.
- To be heard, speak up.
- To be appreciated, shut up.
Notice the key ingredient found in the recipe for a good speech is shortening.
There are short and subtle, yet important, thoughts that are not part of your formal education. Here are five. You can and should carry them from here into the rest of your life.
- Do your best and when you are finished doing your best, you are done. For then. Know your limits. Learn more. Grow more. Be a student forever.
- Much of the world and most of the people in it are good. My mother told me that everyone is doing their best. Sometimes we cannot understand how that works. Cut them a little slack. Their ways may be different, even imperfect, but given what they have learned so far, they are doing their best. They will learn more. Maybe you can help.
- It is an imperfect world in many ways. But it is not imperfect for everyone, nor for anyone all the time. B+ (Be positive.) See the good, too.
- Some will try to use you. Contribute as best you can, but do not lose yourself in the process.
- The real world is a bit different from what you have experienced so far. It is a world where your feelings don’t matter and no one cares if you are offended. At the same time nothing is personal and you will be troubled if you assume it is. Outside your family and a very few friends, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks about you 30 minutes a year.
Go away now and make your contribution. Make the world a little better for your having been in it.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772