Monday, May 14, 2007

One Year Ago

Perhaps the ultimate "one year ago today" story is today, as one year ago today I was sitting on Franklin Field (in a long sleeve rugby shirt because it was cold and rainy and I didn't feel that a dress was warranted) waiting to graduate college. I had processed down Locust Walk and all through Penn's campus, past all the great buildings in which I had spent four years of my life, ending my journey with all those who had traveled by my side, sitting together as one class in our football stadium in front of thousands of bright eyed parents, siblings, and friends. Four years of laughter, tears, frustration, triumph, joy, agony, and growth.

Sitting in the front row with my best friends in our academic 'regalia,' we listened to wise words from those who had gone before us, as the 250th class to graduate from the great University of Pennsylvania. We listened to Amy Gutmann and our awesome speaker Jodie Foster. Despite much skepticism, she definitely was the best speaker I could have imagined. And despite the weather, it was a day I will never forget. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

And now I'm sitting here at my desk at my workstation in my office in midtown Manhattan, one year later. Kind of shocking, really. Well, here I am. Here. Now. And apparently my legacy at Penn lives on in the form of my face. On the cover of the Graduation Program. Interesting. Here are a few excerpts from Jodie's speech.

My fellow graduates, I’ve got the best seat in the house today, a view of the greatest hearts, minds and talents of this generation. You will undoubtedly hear a lot of that kind of talk here today. There are sayings like “the intellectual elite” or “the hope for this country’s future” or “the responsibility that comes with the privilege of education.” And if you’re anything like I was at my Yale graduation in 1984, you’ll think, what a load of elitist crap. You’ll look around you, at your friends still bleary eyed and silly from last night’s concoctions, the buddies you curl up with, sing stupid songs with, make faces with. These guys? We can’t possibly be the ones they’re talking about…Do we know where we’re going? Hell no! If you’re anything like I was you’ll spend the next six months in bed watching re-runs feeling like a complete idiot....

...You have been inspired by the experiences you have had, the people you’ve held, the blood you have shed, all the growing up surrounded by hopefulness of spirit. You have dared, have stuck your hands in the surf and come up with dripping substance. All of that fine and delicious matter has a way of becoming the material of your life. You pick up bits and pieces of treasure and trash, pain and pleasure, passions and disappointments and you start stuffing them in your bag...your big bag of experience. You do some dumb things that don’t work out at all. You stumble excitedly on little gems that you never saw coming. And you stuff them all in your bag. You pursue the things you love and believe in. You cast off the images of yourself that don’t fit. And suddenly you look behind you and a pattern emerges. You look in front of you and the path makes sense. There is nothing more beautiful than finding your course as you believe you bob aimlessly in the current. Wouldn’t you know that your path was there all along, waiting for you to knock, waiting for you to become. This path does not belong to your parents, your teachers, your leaders, or your lovers. Your path is your character defining itself more and more everyday like a photograph coming into focus, like a color that becomes more vivid in contrast with its surroundings. And who is this shiny penny rolling towards that bright future, our graduating cliché? Is he or she so shiny? Is the future truly bright? Well, that is only for you to know and for you to find out. You are standing on a freeway and things will happen. How you duck, weave and balance, how you push, twist and choose, well, that is up to you....

...You will find on your diplomas, and my diploma, the motto of the University of Pennsylvania, which in Latin reads: “Leges sine moribus vanae.” “Laws without morals are useless.” I would add that morals without commitment are empty. Your Penn education has given you a two-by-four. You may build a building or hit someone over the head. The choice is yours. How lucky to find you have the option of filling your life with your passions. And no, not everyone does. You have the privilege of creating meaning in your life so that others might also come to enjoy that privilege. Do not waste it trying to become someone you’re not. Use it to become who you are already. Class of 2006, I’ll leave you with a quote you all know by heart. Feel free to chime in. I’m going to say it twice. From Eminem...

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,
You own it. You better never let it go.
One shot! Do not miss your chance to blow.
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

Class of 2006, congratulations and welcome.

No comments: