Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wise Words from Bono, Oprah at UPenn, Stanford and elsewhere

My column for tomorrow's paper is about Commencement speeches and,... actually, I won't tell you the part after the 'and' or else you won't read it (that is assuming somebody reads my column).
So naturally, I was doing some research on Commencement speeches, specifically those made at American Universities in the U.S.

I've been through the transcripts of a bunch of the most memorable ones, and had to share some excerpts with you from the ones I thought were the best. Read the quotes, but I highly encourage you to watch a number of them in full on Youtube.

My two favorites from unlikely personalities who delivered addresses at Ivy Leagues: Rock-star Bono, and author JK Rowling. Although I have to sheepishly admit I've never read a single Harry Potter book, Ms Rowling's address to Harvard was fantastic. Click on the hyperlink below for her full youtube video.

I couldn't find Bono's video on youtube, so here's the full transcript. Definitley worth reading.
Both have done a great job of providing life lessons with good humour and without sounding condescending or boring.

From: '10 Ways to Avoid Mucking Up the World Any Worse Than it Already Is.', Russell Baker, 1995 Commencement Address to Connecticut College.

"Nine: get married. I know you don't want to hear this, but getting married will give you more satisfaction in the long run than your BMW. It provides a standard set of parent for your children and gives you that second income you will need when it's time to send those children to Connecticut College. What's more, without marriage, you will have practically no material at all to work with when you decide to write a book or hire a psychiatrist. "

From: The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, JK Rowling, 2008 Commencement Address to Harvard University.

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all- in which case, you fail by default."

"And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffeering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do."

From: 'Because We Can, We Must', Bono, 2004 Commencement Address to University of Pennsylvania.

"I know idealism is not playing on the right right now, you don't see it on TV, irony is on heavy rotation, and knowingness, the smirk, and the tired joke. I've tried them all out but I'll tell you this, outside this campus- even inside it-- idealism is under siege beset by materialism, narcissm and all the other isms of indifference. Baggasim, Shaggism, Raggism, Notism, graduatism, chismism. I dont know, Where's John Lennon when you need him?"

"Because at that moment I became the worst scrouge on God's green earth: a rockstar with a cause. Christ! Except it isn't the cause. Seven thousand Africans die every of preventable, treatable diseases like AIDS? That's not a cause, that's an emergency."

From: Oprah Winfrey's 2008 Commencement Speech at Stanford University.

"So, let me end with one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King. Dr. King said, "Not everybody can be famous." And I don't know, but everybody today seems to want to be famous.But fame is a trip. People follow you to the bathroom, listen to you pee. It's just—try to pee quietly. It doesn't matter, they come out and say, "Ohmigod, it's you. You peed."That's the fame trip, so I don't know if you want that."

"So, I say to you, forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart and success will come to you.

So, how do I define success? Let me tell you, money's pretty nice. I'm not going to stand up here and tell you that it's not about money, 'cause money is very nice. I like money. It's good for buying things. But having a lot of money does not automatically make you a successful person. What you want is money and meaning."

(Photo Courtesy of: www.u2station.com)

No comments: