2014 Commencement Speaker at USM
- Service & Advocacy
I was pleased to give this year’s commencement address to the graduating class at the University of Southern Maine.
College graduation can be a joyful occasion but also intimidating as engagement in the “real world” looms. It’s tempting to dispense advice in speeches on these occasions, based on personal experience. But graduation audiences are known to have short attention spans and it can be easy to overestimate the appetite for substantive comments.
With this in mind I chose to focus on just several points and to illustrate those points both with stories and a . . . performance. My two key points were: 1) understand and appreciate the great potential value of challenging convention, and 2) develop a framework of knowing what great looks like for important things in your professional and personal life. To underline the importance of both points I chose an unconventional conclusion to my remarks. I asked the student national anthem singer to come back on stage and we performed a special song as a toast to the graduating class. The song “Joyful graduation” was sung to the tune of “Ode to Joy” with me on harmonica. Comments from the audience and from many others across the country who heard the story suggest that we achieved the goal of memorability for several key points.
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