Here’s My Advice to the Graduating Class of 2013

Published in Pawtucket Times, May 31, 2013

Last week, commencement speakers at Colleges and Universities around the country imparted their wisdom to tens of thousands of graduating College seniors and their families. With the advent of social media, and web sites, millions more will get advice from these Commencement Speeches given by well-known lawmakers, judges, television personalities and CEOs, detailing simple tips and observations that if taken, just might offer the young graduates a more rewarding personal and professional life.

Quotes in Top 2013 Commencement Speeches Often times, local newspapers report on Commencement Speeches delivered at each graduation season. According to Graduation Wisdom, a website that compiles the best Commencement Speeches and memorable quotes, some speeches are just better than others. Some of most memorable quotes taken from the top 2013 Commencement Speeches detailed on this website included:

John Green, educator and writer of adult fiction, who won the 2006 Printz Award for his first novel, Looking for Alaska, told Butler University’s 2013 graduating class that “There are many more jobs out there than you have ever heard of. Your dream job might not yet exist. If you had told College Me that I would become a professional YouTuber, I would’ve been like, “That is not a word, and it never should be.”

Eric Idle, British Comedian and Actor who was a member of the British surreal comedy group, Monty Python, stated in his Commencement Speech at
Whitman College, “Life has a very simple plot: First you’re here and then you’re not.

Yes, more sage advice was given to graduating seniors this year by Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO, who stated in his Commencement Speech at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor: “Believe that if you make courageous choices and bet on yourself and put yourself out there, that you will have an impact, as a result of what you do. And you don’t need to know now what that would be or how will it happen because no one ever does.”

Typical Advice in Commencement Speeches If you look closely, you can find life lessons noted in Commencement Speeches given at Colleges and Universities over the years, that just might lead to a happy and successful life, says Cristina Negrut, who penned “15 Rules for a Happy and Successful Life,” that can be found on Graduation Wisdom’s website.

Negrut notes that Commencement Speakers, usually at the top in their professional game, tell the graduating seniors a number of rules to prepare them for leaving the campus, assisting them to make their mark as adults. Specific advice includes: Don’t worry, your life’s passion will find you. Always trust yourself and learn to take bold action. Never let anyone define who you are. Chase your big dreams. Don’t sit on the sideline, take the initiative and quickly get into the game. Be persistent and tenacious, and never give up. Don’t fear failures in life, learn from them. Nobody is perfect, including you. Make use of your creativity and imagination. Remain in the present moment, not the past or future. Don’t play it safe, always take risks. Learn to embrace change. Work hard. Live selflessly and give back to others.

The Class of 2013 will begin their new life journey with many challenges to face. Gas prices are now around $ 3.50 per gallon. Mortgage rates declined to the lowest level in decades, but many of the graduating seniors, burdened by huge student loan debt, leave college without a job, without adequate credit rating or a down payment to purchase a home.

Although the economy is slowing improving in the Ocean State, graduating seniors, like graduating classes before them, may be forced to relocate to other state’s to land their first professional jobs. The Ocean State continues to be one of the last states to see its economy revive.

My Tips for 2013 Graduates
At press time, I sit with a Commencement Speech written, but with no invitation from a University or College to give it. But if I were asked to speak before a graduating class of 2013, I would give them tips on how to age gracefully throughout their accumulating years. .

Aging can be viewed as a life-long, unpredictable journey. But some people feverishly attempt to not embrace it, choosing to hold onto their gradual, fading youth, fearing the onset of wrinkles, sagging stomachs and even gray hair. As you move into your middle-years and beyond, look at your life as a meaningful journey, keeping focused on the present moment, not strapped to past experience, nor future events.

When you confront life’s health, financial, and professional challenges, keep a positive attitude rather than being overwhelmed by negativity. Each day you will make daily choices as to how you will tackle and react to your problems and life’s difficulties. In every situation, you can see the proverbial glass as either being “half-full” or “half-empty”. A positive attitude allows you to see a “half-full” glass, this allowing you to successfully age.

Savor Your Failures
As we grow older, sometimes we put too much energy reflecting on our personal and professional defeats, focusing on the “bad hand” we were dealt in life. Each and every day, savor your victories, but it is important for you to forgive yourself for your shortcomings and failures. Learning from your shortcomings will build a strong bridge to future successes.

Also, forgive others who have hurt you personally and professionally. You cannot live or reconcile your life peacefully if you are still holding on the grudges, anger and bitterness, all tied to past relationships and negative employment experiences

In your adult years, time flies by rapidly, like a blink of an eye. Amma, a Hindu spiritual teacher, tells her followers to view their life as a ‘cancelled check’. Let go of those past regrets, forgive yourself for those mistakes especially made in childhood and teenage years, more important those you made as you move into your middle or later years. Don’t regret passing up personal or professional opportunities, for others will follow. Use your time on earth wisely; don’t waste it carrying the burdens of past guilt or personal grudges.
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As you grow older and accumulate more of life’s experiences, share your story with others, especially those younger than you. You will have a huge reservoir of untapped wisdom gained through life’s trials and tribulations. When taking on the role of a parent or later on, a grand parent, continue to share your insights and lessons you have learned throughout the cyclical ups and downs of your life. The generations following you will lose out if you choose to remain silent and keep your knowledge and history from them.

Keep Physically Healthy Your health is the most important possession, cherish it. URI Gerontologist Phil Clark once told me, “Use it or lose it. Stay as physically active as you can.” More over, “If you rest, you rust,” he says, noting that physical exercise elevates our mood and benefits your cardiovascular system, too.

The aging researcher also tells us that you “must also exercise your brain”. Simply put, make time in your busy day to read your newspapers, magazines and books, or play a challenging crossword puzzle, even chess.

Some graduating seniors will see their success tied to obtaining professional recognition, seeking to make far-reaching changes in the careers. Sometimes it is not the big things that you do that count, rather the simple daily acts of loving kindness you give to all those around you.

Research also tells us that volunteer work can be a protective buffer from the curve balls that life may throw at us as we age

Keep up and nurture your social contacts and personal connections with others. When you require help, don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, or even professional colleagues for support and assistance. People will always go up the ladder of their careers, sometimes down, too. Take the opportunity to be there for not only people you know, but also strangers when they need a hand to jumpstart their faltering careers.

Simplicity is Key to a Good Life
Learn to slow down and enjoy the simple moments of your life. Nationally-acclaimed Author, Connie Goldman, states that the simple act of watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset or even puttering around your garden can be as stimulating as a jam-packed calendar of activities.

There are no sure bets in one’s life except death, taxes, and yes, growing old. So, Class 2013, make the most of your life that is just beginning to unfold before you. Embrace and appreciate your later years and go for the gusto. Enjoy your new journey.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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