I stumbled upon a list of the greatest graduation speeches of all time the other day. I spent the next few hours listening to all of these inspiring speakings and reflecting on the inspiration it provided to me. I couldn’t keep all of this inspiration to myself, so I’m going to write about it for all of you to read.
The first speech I listened to was by Joyce DiDonato, a great American opera singer. She spoke at Juilliard School’s graduation in 2014 to a class she named ambitious, adventurous, courageous, and talented. Her speech settled around the fact that no one truly ever knows where their journey will lead them, but if they rely on the four truths she’s learned throughout her career, one will always be able to find their center and reset themselves. These are the four truths.
1. You will never make it.
Her blunt delivery of this first, brutal truth took back the audience; however, she goes on to explain that this shouldn’t be interpreted as bad news, but instead fabulous, outstanding news. You’ll never make it because there is no “it.” If you’re always searching for the destination, you will miss out on the journey, and that is what life is all about. You hold an expectation so high in your mind that you will almost always fall short.
2. The work will never end.
Imagine being a student and hearing this dreadfully daunting truth at your commencement, after years and years of hard work. It’s intimidating. DiDonato reveals this truth to inform graduates that the work they plan to do after graduation can become overwhelming, whether it’s unexpected rapid success or heart-wrenching devastating failure. To find their center again, they must go back to the only thing that makes sense, their talent in their work. This is what will bring them solace and truth.
3. It’s not all about you.
This is a lesson many must learn the hard way, and it can be very humbling. Once you’ve learned to accept this truth, it’s empowering and freeing. DiDonato says “glory will always be transitory and will disappear as fleetingly and as arbitrarily as it arrived.
4. The world needs you.
Every individual in this world matters; no one is invisible. DiDonato reminds us to laugh, to play, to fly, and to stop taking everything so seriously. We’re all in this together, and we need to recapture the hope of living in peace with each other so we can thrive together in a vibrant way where each of us grows in wonder and joy.