What I realized is that the power of the individual, the determination, the reserve are beyond any education level or intelligence. Their speeches may be good (or not so good), but what differentiates them is their message. John Legend’s stuck me the most. perhaps it’s his role in pop culture, or simply that he’s so cute. But I doubt that. Graduating a mere eight years before me from Penn, he’s already achieved so much. With an educated mind and a pure soul. He’s conscious. Better yet, he’s awake with life. he took what Penn had to offer and went beyond it. I wonder how many of my fellow classmates have done the same.
To a certain extent, his accomplishments drastically trumps my own and makes me question what I’ve been doing the past three year. Yet, I don’t feel like I’ve mistepped in life. I believe my journey is still beginning (God willing). he, along with the other speakers, inspire me to be bigger than myself. And more this year than any other, challenges us to be truthful, socially conscious and ultimately, the start of a whole new revolution. Bill Clinton called it “interdependence” in his 2006 commencement speech. Eric Schmidt admitted it to the power of information and technology (and its limitations of finding ourselves). John Legend simpled call it “soul” and “truth.” But within all those contexts, our united goal has shifted hopefully shifted from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ From personal accomplishments to social responsibilities. And that we as citizens of this generation and this would can and must effect change. It doesn’t matter if we went to Penn or Yale or Arizona State or nowhere at all. If we have the will to dream (not wish, via Dolly Parton), the cojones to follow through and the ability to persevere against those who oppose us, we will in fact succeed.
More and more, I keep hearing that mistakes are good. Maybe it’s a new generational thing. maybe it’s my coming-of-age. The conclusion still stands. It reveals our ‘self’ and it teaches us to be better, to do better.
I remember a leadership retreat that I went to in high school. I spent the whole weekend sketching trees instead of interacting with other high schoolers. Two things cling to my memory. One: I’m a better leader from behind. I work well with decision-making and taking charge through times of crisis, through mounds of information and through my pure intuition. Not a spokesperson, I work better with deciphering context and drawing broad conclusions. My style is more collaboration than competition (perhaps the reason my GPA suffered under Wharton’s infamous bell curve). Second: I distinctly recall on of the prominent Texas businessmen telling us that we want to have as little experience as possible. Experience equates to failure, and we ought to have as little of that as possible. I see now the blunder in his words.
We cannot succeed without failure. And if we do, that’s not success. That’s luck.
I want to insert a brief reminder to myself: if I’m ever discouraged or afraid to face the future unknowns, I should simply YouTube these commencement speeches. To believe in my own power and confidence and self. To revel in my unknowing instead of fear it, and to realize a “dao” will reveal itself. To look forward to the future. To know that if I am setting myself up with the right tools, failure is only temporary.