Ten on Tuesday | A Commencement Address.

…this week, Carole‘s asked us to share ten things we’d say in a commencement address (quite fitting, since her daughter Hannah graduated with high honors and a double major from college this past weekend – you can see and read more about that celebration here). One of the very first Ten on Tuesdays I remember doing was way back in August, 2010 – advice for our new college freshmen. It’s hard to believe that period is over … for both of us!

It’s been great fun these past few weeks to see photos and read about another class of graduates. I was saving this favorite of mine for a throwback, but it serves today’s post better, I think.

at Sara’s 2014 commencement (thank you to my mom for the photo!) – this is our Georgia Tech family!
Marc (’82 Architecture), Katie (’09 Industrial Engineering), me (’83 Applied Mathematics), Sara (’14 Industrial Engineering), my dad (’61 Chemical Engineering), Rob (’08 Business)

Here goes:

1. Yikes, I wish y’all had hired J.K. Rowling. Her speech was brilliant. smart, funny, poignant and memorable. Gay wizards, anyone?!

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard. 

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step to self improvement.

2. So was Neil Gaiman’s. His address was to The University of the Arts, but it still speaks powerfully to this technical graduate. The closing bit is one of my favorites:

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.

3. But you didn’t hire them. Instead you have me. I graduated from college 32 years ago with a degree in Applied Mathematics (from a school known mostly for its engineering degrees) and a job, engaged to marry the guy I started dating before classes even started my freshman year. We will celebrate our 32nd anniversary this fall. We’ve raised two lovely daughters, who did graduate with those coveted engineering degrees, and are delighted to have the start of what we hope will be a bigger extended family. We’ve certainly been through some very rocky times, and it’s never easy…but it’s easier with the right partner. Choose wisely.

4. As women, we’ve seen remarkable strides in career opportunities. Which also means we have tough choices. Make the choice(s) that are best for you and your family…and please, support all the other women, especially those who have made a different choice.

5. Take care of yourself. Your mind and your body will likely age at different rates…good care will help to minimize the gap(s).

6. Laugh often. especially at yourself. and never at the expense of others.

7. Be generous.

8. and kind.

9. Always keep learning.

10. Wear sunscreen.

Good luck, best wishes…and congratulations!

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9 thoughts on “Ten on Tuesday | A Commencement Address.

  1. What a wonderful commencement speech, Mary! I can also see why that GT family photo is a favorite – that is a smart, good-looking, definitely above-average bunch! I had to look up Mary Warnock, and she seems to have written some very interesting applied philosophy that I wouldn't mind taking a look at someday. See, your speech helped me keep learning!

  2. You have so man good points to live a good life! I need to learn from your list of suggestions, especially to wear sun screen!!

  3. Such a thoughtful/thought provoking list…with a dash of humor, here n' there. Great advice for us all – your memory of your graduation speaker reminds me of mine: all I recall is her name: Hannah Arendt…and I know who she is but couldn't tell you a word she said after "Hello."Cheers~

  4. This is about 10x better than the commencement speaker last year. What did he talk about? "Everyone go and buy Coke products!"

  5. Love your picture, and your advice! Too funny, that my daughter, also named Hannah, graduated last weekend with a double major in English and Secondary Education. Hard to believe my two older daughters have both graduated from college! Truly joyful, but bittersweet as well. Found all the hats I have knit for her while moving her to her new apartment. She told me those are some of her most treasured possessions! 🙂

  6. Excellent commencement address, Mary! (Sen. Tunney of California spoke at my graduation in 1974. No idea what he said. Just remember that it was a sunny day!)

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