Every kindergartener, gender nonconforming or conforming, in my son’s class of 1996 was giddy about the gold sparkly top hat they got to wear for their graduation ceremony and the cake celebration afterward. My child Harry had big dreams about first grade and beyond. He wanted to be a “scientist comedian” who made rocket fuel out of chips and dip. They also pictured themself an artist or songwriter.
To mark academic achievement and feel excitement about a future filled with all they can imagine for themselves is what I wish for every child, young or old, graduating or not. Some mighty wisdom is shared in commencement speeches. From Harry’s kindergarten teacher’s brief remarks, it was to explore, discover and “be you.” No matter what the age of a child you know, here’s some memorable advice that, like sunscreen, can be applied liberally.
James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy
Northern Carolina State University, 2011
“The best graduation gift that I—or any of us—can give you is the copyright to your own story. Begin writing it today. Write it with passion and purpose. And write it without limits.”
Ms. Frizzle, CEO of The Magic School Bus
Scholastic Corporation, 1986
“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer
Stanford University, 2005
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
University of Southern California, Berkeley, 2016
“I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
Cheers to the graduates, past, present and future. As they celebrate all that they are and all they are becoming still, please remind them to dream big.
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