From Sol Gittleman’s commencement speech to this year’s graduates of Tufts University:
… We never thought that those 34 or 40 courses actually provided you with all the wisdom that you needed. For most of you, we really didn’t even prepare you for a specific job. We prepared you for a life of risk, change, and the capacity to think, grow, learn, and be happy; to discover what it is that gives you satisfaction. You weren’t educated at Tufts for your first employment; you were educated for your last one; so, don’t worry about the first job. The one you’ll have in three years hasn’t even been invented yet! You may have several different careers. Many of you have already changed majors in college. One of you came as a pre-med student, and she is leaving to become an Episcopalian priest! Some of you have found your passion, others have not, yet. And that’s the uniqueness of American higher education; it provides ample room for changing directions, for exploring, even in the worst of economic times, for creating your own world of happiness and satisfaction. Don’t get impatient. It may not happen tomorrow. But, you are uniquely equipped to deal with a changing world.
… The technological advances of these next fifty years could alter how your generation understands the meaning of a library. But, don’t ever forget the human component of sharing space with books and other people.
… You discovered [here] the utter satisfaction of reading good literature, a novel, a story, or a poem, of sitting under a tree on this hill and reading Proust, or going to the Balch Theatre or Granoff for Cole Porter or Henry Purcell. Hold on to it. Never be embarrassed by your love of beauty or art.
… We’ll know in about forty years if we did a decent job in preparing you for your lives. If you continue to get better at everything you do, if you can take risks, change directions, remain intellectually flexible and engaged in the world around you, if you can discover a modest degree of happiness regardless of your income, then we will take some credit for lighting the candle of your mind.
Now, the conclusion, with thanks to Hamlet and Shakespeare’s old Polonius, the advice giver:
Start your own motor. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you what to do.
Believe that your tank is always half full, never half empty.
Work hard at whatever you do, whatever you believe in.
You can accomplish what you want to without ever having to hurt someone else. Be competitive, but never lose sight of the rest of humanity. Be civil in all your arguments and struggles, and demand civility from others.
Remember the past: keep looking backward, so that looking forward makes some sense out of it.
Expect nothing. Blame no one. Do something. And don’t whine.
Keep your memos short; watch your grammar, proofread, and spelling still counts.