Anna Quindlen’s Commencement Address

From Anna Quindlen’s Commencement Address at Barnard College, NY June 2005:

Here is what awaits you: you will be offered the option of now becoming exhausted adults, convinced that no achievement is large enough, with resumes as long as short stories. But what if that feels like a betrayal of self, a forced march down a road trodden by other feet, at the end of which is–nothing you truly care for?

Fear not. Remember Pinocchio? There is a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder.

It is you, your best self, the one you can trust. The only problem is that it is sometimes hard to hear what it says because all the external voices and messages are so loud, so insistent, so adamant. Voices that loud are always meant to bully.

Do not be bullied.

Earlier this year I attended a session of Dennis Dalton’s Political Theory class. The students were studying the Tao. Professor Dalton graciously gave me my own pocket-sized copy. I now read it every day, especially this passage. It makes me despair of ever saying anything original. And it keeps me honest. It says:

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
When you are content to be simply yourself, And don’t compare or compete, Everybody will respect you.

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