Everything I Need to Know I Learned Before Kindergarten

Here’s some ba-dum-ching! for you from the New Yorker shouts and murmurs blog, a Commencement Address for the Preschool Class of 2014:

As a fellow Excelsior alum, I see a preschool class that is uniquely equipped to solve the problems our world faces. I read some of your admissions essays to get a clearer sense of who you are, and wow. It’s inspiring to see how many of you aren’t afraid to defy convention. The number of you who drew abstract representations of yourselves instead of submitting a boring personal statement—that’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that makes you exceptional. …

If you want your parents to know how grateful you are, learn how to code. It’s time to harness the skills you’ve gained from swiping on your mom’s iPhone and sending all of those cryptic e-mails to her co-workers. I’m not going to sugarcoat reality: the competition out there is fierce. For every time you sat on Dad’s iPad and almost broke the screen, other preschoolers were out there building touch screens that don’t even crack. Figure out coding, and you’ll be able to pay your own way through college or, best-case scenario, you won’t even need to attend. Think big picture: you’ll run your house by the time you’re thirteen, and your parents won’t be able to say no when you’re invited to Calliope’s boy-girl sleepover.

In other words, study #STEM! Or get a PhD and someday you too can earn $63,000 as a writer-editor for the Smithsonian.

Though this is funny, the idea of children as young as five being separated out into “gifted and talented” programs is not a joke — New York City public schools start tracking in kindergarten. WTF, NYC? Is that really necessary, or just a way to keep rich parents in the system? Also, wah, I’m totally being mocked: my daughter’s middle name is Calliope.

‘Avoiding the Treadmill’ and Letting Stress Win: A Commencement Speech

The best advice and the worst advice I've ever gotten were three words long. The best advice was "avoid the treadmill". It was 2003. I was coming to the end of a master's degree in a subject (political philosophy) and a city (London) I was ready to leave. I was 22 years old.

Perfect Commencement Speaker Gives Perfect Commencement Speech

Jill Abramson is unemployed. Over the years, she has worked hard, succeeded, been fired; now, in the process of trying to figure out What’s Next?, she is drawing on stores of resilience. Naturally, this makes her the perfect Commencement Speaker to address the Class of 2014:

Her speech was about “resilience,” she said, and was inspired by a call from her sister the day after she was, in no uncertain terms, “fired.” As proud as her father would have been to see her appointed the first female executive editor in Times history, “it meant more to our father to see us deal with a setback and see us try to bounce back than how we handled our successes,” Abramson said. “Show what you are made of, he’d say.”

“I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped, not gotten the job you really wanted, or received those horrible rejection letters from grad school,” she continued. “You know the sting of losing or not getting something you really want. When that happens show what you are made of.” Abramson referenced other challenges she’s faced recently, including getting hit by a truck in Times Square seven years ago. “You may begin to call me Calamity Jill, but stay with me here,” she said. … “What’s next for me?” she added. “I don’t know, so I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you.”

Uncertainty! Rejection! Trying hard, being deserving, and still not getting what you want! This is what we all face — throughout our lives but with particular force when we graduate from college and join a workforce that doesn’t care about our self-esteem or offer Trigger Warnings. NOTE: Why is our culture so resistant to “trigger warnings” when we’re all about ratings on movies, TV, and video games? Is it because, as Shine argues in the above link, we see TWs as yet another attempt by the joyless PC lady mafia to take fun away and tell us what to do?

Anyway, resilience makes a great subject for a commencement speech because, to some extent, how you react to the inevitable setbacks of your 20s is the only element of your 20s you can control. Like Samuel Becket famously said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Here are some more inspirational quotes about failure. You’re welcome.

photo via Quotes Pictures.com

Actually Useful Commencement Speeches

Remember graduation? Remember what your speakers talked about? I vaguely recall something about never forgetting about what my dreams are, and to remember to do something that I love and that makes a difference because I am the future.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Advice to Students

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates considers what kind of advice he'd offer to students in Baltimore County if he were invited to speak to them.

Advice From Commencement Speeches

This is from a commencement speech he gave to the University of the Arts, and although I appreciate the sentiment behind what he's saying, the only piece of advice I've ever used from a commencement speech was to remember to wear sunscreen.