President Gearan, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, family and friends, and of course fellow graduates of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a good morning to you.
“It’s not the end; it’s the beginning. Embrace the world. Be engaged citizens. Because we have high expectations for you. So get on out there and start your new journey on this Road of Life!”
No! Nope. No, no, no. None of that! There will be none of that because if I have to hear “the road of life speech” one more bloody time, I’m liable to run out into speeding traffic on that particular road. But no need to worry. No need to fret because the road and the traffic are merely metaphors and cannot physically hurt me. They can however, bore me to tears, perhaps even leading to some self-inflicted violence or harm. So, I guess you could say, that in certain instances such as commencement speeches, over-used metaphors pose a somewhat serious threat to health and the last thing I wish to do is expose you to a potentially hazardous situation.
All right? All right. I feel better now. I hope you do too. Cliché metaphors are out. I won’t talk with or about them. I am, however, going to talk about the “P” word. Yep, the “P” word. Now, before I go any further, I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, I know. You were thinking, “Oooh, he’s going to talk about something dirty, at commencement. How dare he?” So let’s get it out on the table right now. The “P” word, in the context that I’m using it, does not refer at all to anything dirty, lewd, or obscene. So what does it refer to? Well, I’m not going to tell you right away. You’re going to have to be patient. A little anticipation never hurt anybody.
So I was reading the comics a while back. You know, like you do. They’re funny; I like ’em. Except for Cathy. I hate Cathy, she and her strip anger me, but that’s the topic of another speech. So anyway, I was reading the comics and there was one particular line in one of the comics that really stood out for me. Now for the life of me, I can’t remember what the context was or even the name of the comic strip, but the general gist of the line went something like this: “To be happy in life, one really needs only three things [aside from food, shelter, and water of course]. One really needs only three things. You need something to do, something to hope for, and someone to love. Wow, pretty deep, right? These three things really caught my attention and made me think. And as I was thinking about them, the “P” word surfaced in the back of my mind and really put an exclamation point on it for me. Whoa! Here we are back at the “P” word. I’m not going to make you wait any longer; you were patient. Albeit patient for approximately 27 ½ seconds, but patient nonetheless. For me the “P” word is passion, folks. Not passion as in “passionate lust” as in those harlequin romance novels you can pick up in the grocery checkout line, nor as in Mel Gibson’s latest film endeavor, but rather passion as the Standard English lexicon defines it. “Passion: a strong liking, desire for, or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.” Passion. Now let’s go back to the three things I just mentioned because I think passion and those three are connected.
So first off, we all need something to do. Now, when I say that, I do not mean having a long overflowing “to do list” or a jam-packed weekly planner. This is not my intent at all. When I say we all need something to do, I want the phrase to take on a much more over-arching meaning. We all need something to do in life that makes us feel productive and fills us with satisfaction. Whether it be a hobby, volunteer work, an internship, job, or a career, pursue it passionately. Because when they say, “If you love your work, it’s not really work”, they’re right. Whoever “they” are. Who knows? Perhaps “they” are really the collective wisdom of the people over time. Find that thing or things in life that you enjoy because it makes you passionate and you’re passionate because you enjoy it. What an incredibly wonderful chiastic relationship to be involved in. Enjoying life and having a passion for life are directly related. I think we have to try to find the things to do that make us feel both.
Second, we all need something to hope for. I believe this need is deeply rooted in looking passionately to the future. We should all have objectives that we desire to reach and goals that we strive for. Think about it. How boring and pessimistically finite would life be if we had nothing to look forward to and hope for? Now, there are a lot of maxims and adages out there regarding the past, present, and future that irk me, but none so much as this one that I hear over and over again. “Right now is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” C’mon. That seems incredibly corny, unambitious, and frankly shortsighted to me. How are you ever going to move on and evolve as a person with a motto like that? Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying don’t appreciate the moment. We’re all about that. After all, it’s the only tense in which any action is possible. But let’s not dwell on it. There’s a big difference between dwelling on the moment and appreciating it. Let’s try to have something to hope for, and do so passionately. It will create an existence that’s enthusiastic, focused, and healthy. What more in the world could you ask for?
Last, and most certainly not least, we all need someone to love. And I’m sorry, but there is no escaping a “P” word reference on this one. Because it is impossible to love without being passionate. So I guess this one, of the three things I’ve talked about, should be the most natural because love and passion are so synonymous. Do I need to repeat the “passion” definition again? “A strong liking, desire, and devotion.” Now while I’ll be the first to admit that defining love is a difficult, complex, daunting, and perhaps impossible task, I think it’s clear that even without a concrete definition the ideas of love and passion are very closely interrelated. So we all need someone to love. To love is part of us. It’s human nature. It’s what we do. Or perhaps less of what we do and more of what we need to do. Whether the love is romantic, familial, or friendly, they’re all terribly crucial to who we are and how we live our lives. Love and be passionate about it. You can’t help it anyway.
To be happy. That’s a concept I think we all could get used to on a regular basis. The few things we need to do to make that concept into a reality are pretty straightforward. We need something to do, something to hope for, and someone to love. Straightforward, yet profound. All found on the funny pages. Who’d ’a thunk it?
Now to conclude, I’m going to completely renege on all of what I said at the beginning about metaphors and use one. Partly because I can’t help it and partly because you probably half expected me to anyway. I think you’ll forgive me though because this metaphor is not overused and it originates from the master, Mr. William Shakespeare. Here goes, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.” Now for some alliteration—play those parts passionately, people. It’ll make all the difference.
Hobart Senior Speech by Evan Griswold '04
Commencement, May 16, 2004