Vital Speeches editor crawls out from under mountain of commencement speeches, tells strange stories

Still bleary-eyed from reading many dozens of commencement speeches and sore-armed from sifting them with a flat-shovel for the special commencement-speech August issue of Vital Speeches, allow me to indulge in a little merriment.

In a speech to graduates of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Nobel Prize scientist Brian Schmidt said:

The other way that people get derailed is through bad things that happen to them. Let’s be clear. Bad things happen to everyone.

Over your career you will be maligned by colleagues, treated unfairly by your supervisors and passed over for promotion by your employer. You will be ignored, unjustly blamed and you will have bad luck.

It is in your interest to move on and forward with your life when this happens. Of course, anything illegal should be reported to the relevant body—but let the relevant body deal with it.

Pursuing justice yourself will only distract you from what you really want to be doing …

Couldn’t you just thank God for inspiration like that?

On the other hand, one of the better lines I read this week came from a speech that did make the cut for our August issue:

During his May 27 commencement speech at Nova Southeastern University, New Republic senior editor Jonathan Cohn said, “Graduation speakers are like mixed seasonal vegetables. When you go to a restaurant, you expect them on your plate. But they’re not the reason you went there and they’re not what you remember about the meal.”

I hope you enjoy the August issue when it comes out. I think it’s one of our best. (I have to think it’s one of our best.) —DM

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