They say youth is wasted on the young, but I think good commencement speeches may be too. Last year, my favorite speech was the address given by Steve Jobs at Stanford. This year, most of the press was about speakers who got in hot water for the things they choose to say or where they choose to speak. Among them, Senator John McCann got booed for supporting the war in Iraq and TV Journalist Anderson Cooper insulted Yoko Ono.
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, himself a graduate of Second City, spoke at Knox University . He was funny, and self-effacing. But somewhere in the middle, he said this:
Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say “yes.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back.
Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics.
Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”
And that’s The Word.