The Gold Standard | ‘Lucky’ graduating classes of 2012

As one approaches the weekend, one is both physically weary and mentally weary. Stories of hatchet men, hatchet jobs, conspiracies, small minds, petty agendas and prevarications leave us feeling cynical, depressed and jaded.

At a more mundane level, as one of the two speakers below reminds us, the world wants to travel at a speed greater than the speed of thought. That too is overwhelming. But, it is important to travel at the speed of thoughtfulness, as he puts it, at least from time to time.

With that in mind, it is my abundant pleasure to blog on two great and wonderfully thoughtful graduation speeches – both delivered this year and recently.

The speakers come with contrasting backgrounds. But, I think there is more than one element of commonality in their speeches.

Two great graduation speeches came to my attention in recent weeks. One, because I am on the mailing list of

One is by Nipun Mehta. You can click on this link to read the speech and to understand a bit more about this amazing individual. Here are some vignettes:

true generosity doesn’t start when you have some thing to give, but rather when there’s nothing in you that’s trying to take.

don’t just go through life — grow through life. It will be easy and tempting for you to arrive at reflexive answers — but make it a point, instead, to acknowledge mystery and welcome rich questions … questions that nudge you towards a greater understanding of this world and your place in it.

As you walk on into a world that is increasingly aiming to move beyond the speed of thought, I hope you will each remember the importance of traveling at the speed of thoughtfulness.

Thanks to good friend Sushant, I read an equally thoughtful speech. This one is by the famous author Michael Lewis (famed for Liar’s Poker, Moneyball and his columns in Bloomberg and in various other places). While Nipun spoke at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael spoke at Princeton. Here is the link to Michael’s speech.

Some vignettes:

This isn’t just false humility. It’s false humility with a point. My case illustrates how success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.

Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with  luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.

you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

Never forget: In the nation’s service. In the service of all nations.

The graduating classes of UPenn 2012 and Princeton 2012 have been lucky!

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.