Saturday, May 29, 2004

Commencement Season Again

To mark commencement season last year, I pointed you to a memorable and touching speech given at the 1988 Wesleyan University commencement by my friend and writing guru, William Zinsser. And since it wasn't online anywhere, I reprinted it in its entirety.

This year, thankfully, I can merely link to the most memorable commencement speech. The uber-comedian Jon Stewart recently went back to his alma mater, William & Mary, and gave one of the most rousing, funniest and most bone-deep honest talks ever to be presented at an American university. In doing so, he proved once more why he resonates so deeply with so many millions of people. My two favorite lines: "What piece of wisdom can I impart to you about my journey that will somehow ease your transition from college back to your parents' basement?" And: "We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui." And he even had a serious core to his message, which most commencement speakers would take 20 minutes to impart, but which he expressed with poetic brevity: "Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may."

And speaking of poetic brevity and of Bill Zinsser, the venerable one has a new book out, which I can almost promise will raise the hair on the back of your neck (if you haven't already shaved it off). Do check it out when you get a moment.


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