1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Ten Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You

  1. May 1, 2012 #1
    This has been going around, but it's interesting enough to read.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2012 #2

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor


    I was fortunate to happen to read Robert Horton's commencement speech- the local paper printed an excerpt- when I had just started college:


    A few sentences:

    "You are crossing a river you can never cross again. And attention must be paid, not with the mindless cliches of most commencement speeches, but with some clear truth. here are three truths I offer you:

    1) The world does not belong to the young. It does not give a tinker's cuss about the young. Speeches to the contrary insult your intelligence.
    2) Not one soul here today is likely to change civilization. Do not be misled by pollyannas.
    3) You are far older than you think. Already, almost one-third of your life has ticked away."

    It's a good read.
  4. May 1, 2012 #3

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    This dovetails nicely with item #10 in the WSJ article cited by Greg,
    10. Don't try to be great. Being great involves luck and other circumstances beyond your control. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn't, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.​

    Apparently the #1 goal amongst young people today is to be famous. Fifteen minutes of fame, maybe. Those fifteen minutes of fame usually aren't worth the expense. Who wants to be briefly famous for having all one's teeth pulled out by one's ex?

    We see this problem of misaligned goals all too often right here at this site. "My goal in life is to be a famous astrophysicist at Harvard. I won't be happy with anything but that."
  5. May 1, 2012 #4
    Finding meaning in life is man's purpose is it not? It is a mix of our innate greed and curiosity.

    Those who become great have the 10 percent inspiration AND the 90 percent perspiration.
  6. May 1, 2012 #5
    Perfection is illogical, be good in everything you do.

    Join clubs and join study groups even if you think you are above them, they can help with the flow of ideas, and you never know, maybe you will think of a cool research project to undertake.

    Help other students, not just because you want something in return, but because they are your compatriots.

    I'd like to hear this story.
  7. May 1, 2012 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  8. May 1, 2012 #7
    I was taught the exact opposite. That everyone is likely to change civilization in some way. It may not be in a good way, which is where "try not to make things worse than they are" comes in handy.
  9. May 1, 2012 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So true! And intent is not always the determining factor. Beware of unintended consequences, and at least try to be cognizant of those consequences, if you can. We all have some power in the world that we live in, and we should all try do "do no harm".
  10. May 2, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It may be true that this is not likely, but if one is not actually trying to work as good as one can, then it's a sure bet (not only unlikely) that one will not end up in the place desired. There is this saying
    (attributed to Margaret Mead). Of course this is not the entire truth, and not all few commited people have changed the world for the better (just think of what happened in Germany in the 1930s...). But telling people that they cannot change the world? It's just an excuse you give them for not trying hard enough.

    Note: I do not want to imply that "changing the world" is something everyone should attempt to do (in fact, I think it is not a good goal at all, as most things are easily changed for the worse. In many cases there is a good reasons structures are as they are). But some people legitimately believe in some necessary changes. And I'd rather see them try to do them, and maybe see what is wrong with what they propose, than tell me that nothing they do matters anyway and then go play xbox.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook