Monday, June 13, 2011

Quindlen's Commencement Assessment

Commencement speeches are tricky things, both for the speaker, who is charged with conveying deep thoughts, and for the graduate, who is charged with staying awake.

The New York Times
offered snippets from this season's commencement speeches, and I so liked what writer Anna Quindlen said to the graduates of Grinnell College that I'm running it here. Try to stay awake as you read. I promise it will be worth it.

"Your parents, proudly here today, and their parents before them, perhaps proudly here today, understood a simple equation for success: your children would do better than you had. Ditch digger to cop to lawyer to judge.

"We’re now supposed to apologize to you because it seems that that’s no longer how it works, that you won’t inherit the S.U.V., which was way too big, or the McMansion that was way too big, or the corner office that was way too big.

"But I suggest that this is a moment to consider what “doing better” really means. If you are part of the first generation of Americans who genuinely see race and ethnicity as attributes, not stereotypes, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans with a clear understanding that gay men and lesbians are entitled to be full citizens of this country with all its rights, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans who assume women merit full equality instead of grudging acceptance, will you not have done better than we did?"