Commencement speeches can be hit or miss. When they miss, it’s often because they’re too long, patronizingly political, or filled with Hallmark-card cliches.
When they hit, they somehow manage to take some of those predictable, inspirational themes and make them seem fun, original and actionable.
During this peak graduation season, I’ve enjoyed perusing the latest commencement speeches posted on YouTube. I’ve been less interested in the headline-grabbing addresses by A-listers such as Oprah and Tim Cook, and more interested speeches which appoach the ideal of The Perfect Commencement Address (short, funny and meaningful), wherever they may arise.
The best one I’ve seen so far comes from Ben Nemtin, speaking to graduates at the University of Utah. Nemtin, best known for producing the carped-diem themed TV series “The Buried Life,” managed to blend a lofty motivational message with practical advice on how to do extraordinary things.
Inspired by Matthew Arnold’s words from his poem “The Buried Life,” Nemtin offers thoughts on how to quench our “thirst to spend our fire and restless force / In tracking out our true, original course.” Importantly, Nemtin avoids making this a me-me-me message, as he recognizes, “It’s been the times that we’ve helped other people do what they love that remain the highlight.”
Here’s his address. And congratulations to all graduates!