Still the Best Commencement Speech of All Time

By Mark Rocha

Many, many great commencement speakers: John F. Kennedy, Toni Morrison, Wynton Marsalis, John Stewart, to name just a few.  Please read this one by the great contemporary American writer George Saunders.  His soft-spoken, humble, humane message is a great uplift at a time when we so dearly need it.

As a former college president, I've become something of a collector of commencement speeches.  Most commencement speeches are forgettable, and happily so.  The best commencement speeches, good or bad, are short since the gathered graduates and their families and friends are often baking in the summer sun.  (After all, we're all just waiting for our son or daughter to cross the stage.) This college commencement season for our Class of 2017 has been so deeply politicized, almost as if the graduates themselves are a mere backdrop to incessant political wrangling.

Every once in a while a commencement speaker like George Saunders comes along.  Quiet, unassuming, unannounced.  His speech to the graduates of Syracuse University on May 11, 2013, is a healing prayer.

Please read the entire text of George Saunders' speech here.

With best wishes and congratulations to each person of the Class of 2017!  May God bless you by helping you to shine your light for the good of us all.


PS: I do not know Saunders but I am sure he would be embarrassed by my claim for his speech.  If you have the text of a commencement speech that has been meaningful to you, please do send it along.