Graduates: A Commencement Speech Not To Be Missed

Every year a small stream of commencement speeches find their way into my inbox. Most are standard fare- nice; but nothing that makes you go ‘ah, I should think about [insert subject].”

I’m picky; these speeches are a trite, overworked, form.

How many commencement speeches do you really want to read, and, or write about? Some years, I say, or highlight, little about commencement speeches.

This year I’ve got one that I like- TABS Executive Director Pete Upham’s Asheville School’s 2013 Baccalaureate address.

I most appreciate Upham’s “Be Astonished” message. Upham advises students avoid stagnancy and its concurrent certitude and complacency.

“Nourish the capacity for astonishment. Choose a life of surprise. In its absence, we are susceptible to the perilous spell that persuades us we have it all figured out, or will soon—the world, ourselves, and most dangerously, other people. In my experience, such certitude leads to a jaded cynicism, a corrosive self-regard, the end of learning, and even, finally, the death of hope. However seemingly logical the journey, you arrive at that desolate country, the polar opposite of wisdom, a long trip back to springtime. Don’t go there. And if you do, come back,” Upham writes.

You can watch the full address:

Stay vibrant. Find new ways of learning and thinking. Find joy the changes in yourself as you go forth. And, always keep in mind the people who have taught you how to live a life of lifelong learning.

I encourage you share Mr. Upham’s words with your students. As well, was there a specific speech this year (or any year) that you’d like to share? If so, please leave a note in the comments.

About the Author
Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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