Hold Fast Your Dreams. Famous Graduation Commencement Speeches (May 2015)

Susan’s Thursday Note May 14, 2015
Graduation Commencement Famous Thoughts.

Good morning!  Windows are open.  The perfect “I don’t have to wish I was in Hawaii” weather.  Calm robin perched on my lamppost.  Cats drinking rain water off of lawn chairs.  New little orange flower arriving on the scene.  So easy to see the beauty in life by looking outside this morning.  My angel of dawn has arrived.  Looking over my shoulder at the little Spiderman running behind me and asking him if he hears the orchestra of the birds.  Encouraging him to start young hearing and seeing the gifts of his Creator.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to read a book with twenty commencement speeches, Hold Fast Your Dreams.  Three separate thoughts from the entire book stayed in my mind.  An Indian proverb and short story told by Ben Cohen, founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream followed by one short poem by Dr. Seuss comprising his entire commencement speech.  I hope you find words that burrow into a corner of your mind.  Words given to graduates that possibly hold more meaning to those of us that are older and see how quickly life passes.  Words to continue to find beauty and keep perspective.

Ben Cohen Commencement Address at Vassar College, New York.  1993. (Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream).  Indian Proverb followed by “The Allegory of the Long Spoons.

Indian Proverb:
When you were born,
You cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life in such a way that when you die
The world cries and you rejoice.”  

 The Allegory of the Long Spoons:
…an ancient Eastern story of the man who was granted permission to see both heaven and hell while he was still alive.  He made a deal with this angel.  He decides to see hell first.  He goes down with the angel and they open up this big door and they look inside.  It is a beautiful banquet hall, and down the middle is this long banquet table with people seated on either side, with every imaginable delicacy in bowls and platters all along the whole table.  He is puzzled to see that the people there are wailing and crying and they are in misery.  He looks a little closer and he sees that the handles on their eating utensils are so long that it is impossible to get the food into their mouths.  Depressed and with a heavy heart, he asked to go see heaven.  

 They go over, they open up a door that looks pretty much the same, they open it up, and it is just about the same scene – a huge banquet hall, table down the middle, people seated on both sides.  The table is laden with every imaginable delicacy.  The greatest food you have ever seen in your life.  He looks and sees that the handles on the utensils are also really, really long.  But these people are laughing and signing and rejoicing.  He looks closer and sees that the people in heaven, instead of trying to feed only themselves, were feeding each other.                              (Allegory attributed as being told by Rabbi Haim of Romshishok). 

“My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers” poem given at Lake Forest College 1977.

My uncle ordered popovers
From the restaurant’s bill of fare,
And, when they were served, he regarded them
With a penetrating stare…
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom
As he sat there on that chair:
“To eat these things,” said my uncle,
“You must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid…
BUT…you must spit out the air!”
 And…as you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
That’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.

Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.  Every morning a new chance to look five years into the future.  Who do I want to meet for lunch if I’m meeting myself?  What do I want to be able to discuss?  What memories?  What decisions?  What will I discuss with myself on how I was able to deal with what life handed me?  Today I get to continue this hard beautiful journey called life.  Can I keep the perspective of five years.  Ten years.  One day even.  One week.  Always making decisions on conversations, books, friendships, situations that make me able to look back on life when I die and rejoice.  Rejoice at the glance back and rejoice at what I’ll be able to see when I close my eyes for the last time.  Life.  Our individual musical compositions.  Minor agonizing movements in our songs.  Beautiful movements.  We play the music.  We don’t compose our songs, but we do have the ability to continue to the next measure, regardless of what notes currently play.

Thank you for again letting me enter your Thursday.  Birds are singing.  They seem subdued today after the rain.  Quietly singing.  Appreciating the freshness of this morning.  Can we learn by watching them?  Learn there are times to sing loudly and times to just sit on the lamppost and absorb life.  Today.  Another day where sand in our timers will pass so quickly.  Can we stop a few grains in our minds.  Stop the sands and appreciate the moment?  Thank you for coming into our store for your books, for your coffee, for your moments of fun with your kids.  We’ll be there ready to give you a reprieve from your particular measure in your song.  Helping you to reenter your song when you walk out the door.  Susan

Works Cited:
Boyko, Carrie and Kimberly Colen.  Hold Fast Your Dreams: Twenty Commencement Speeches. New York.  Scholastic.  1996.