After the cherry blossoms have fallen from their branches in rising temperatures of the late springtime, we are every year greeted by a fresh crop of oratory as we enter into Commencement Speech Season.
It’s certainly helpful to temper the wide-eyed wonderment of it all with a little cynicism–when you think about it, yes, these speeches are often “little more than TED talks in funny hats“–but, one would hope, that even the most expertly aloof Brooklynite could be won over by the rhetoric below.
The author of maybe the best novel of the past 20 years and maybe the best essay collection of the past 20 years also gave maybe the best commencement speech of the past 20 years, his Kenyon College commencement from 2005, recently revived in the below video. It’s rightfully reignited an interest in the speech, in which the scribe describes how “in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”
So it’s no surprise that he dropped knowledge on a 2010 speech, where he drew the line between gifts and choices for Princeton grads. “Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice,” he says, and while gifts, being given, are easy, choices can get hard. “You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful,” he added, “and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”
Addressing the 2011 class of Sarah Lawrence, Huffington quotes the medieval philosopher Plotinus (that the three sources of knowledge are “opinion, science, and illumination)–and her mother (“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly”)–in a speech exhorting her audience to take the small steps to wisdom.
[Image: Flickr user Dave Lawler]