“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner
Do you remember your high school graduation? Who spoke to your class? What words did they leave you with that inspired you to go out into the world and do great things? Do you even remember? It was 1951 at University High School in Oxford, Mississippi when author William Faulkner spoke the words in the opening quote. As he encouraged the graduating class to go out as individuals and raise their voices, so he continues to speak to us today. Imagine how we could change the earth if we were willing to raise our voices.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005
It has been a hard year for this woman who has gone from being agreeable and feeling controlled by most everyone to gaining a voice that is uncomfortable for some to hear and liberating for her to use. In Steve Jobs’ speech at the 2005 Stanford graduation, he reminded people not to let their inner voices be drowned out by others’ noise. I can’t really pinpoint whose words spurred me to silence the noise and speak up for myself, but I’m certain the thought came from someone offering courage and inspiration.
The job of a commencement speech is to encourage and empower those graduating and feeling somewhat uncertain of the world awaiting them. Jobs did that, and he continues to do that as his words are repeated and treasured for their ability to motivate.
“On behalf of frogs, fish, pigs, bears and all of the other species who are lower than you on the food chain, thank you for dedicating your lives to saving our world and our home.” Kermit the Frog, Southampton College, 1996
Words in commencement addresses often inspire people to step outside of their comfort zones and into the discomfort of protecting others — the environment, animals, and other people. I imagine if Kermit the Frog had spoken at my graduation, I would have paid attention and held on to the wisdom he shared. It isn’t too late to dedicate your life, or a portion of it, to saving the world — the home of people beneath you on the food chain or the pay scale. The wisdom of a frog is great, indeed.
“The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harvard University, July 15, 1838
Nothing that you and I are doing needs to be an imitation of what others have done. We have our own ideas and our own paths to travel. What an important message Emerson shared at Harvard almost 200 years ago! While imitation might be a great form of flattery, the wisdom of embracing our ideas, along with our voices and having a concern for those beneath us on the food chain or pay scale opens a world to us others won’t know. Are we willing to take a chance of doing great things?
Words are powerful, and they are one of my favorite things. Every word I write to another person has been thought out, agonized over, and finally settled upon as the most meaningful and genuine thing I can offer them. The words spoken at commencements are usually much the same — as the speaker seeks to entertain and to inspire.
Now is your time, and mine, to take the time to think about what our commencement address might be. Write your own words of humor and instruction with a bit of a challenge…this is your message to another generation to encourage and inspire. Those words might change the earth if only we are willing to speak.