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Some Advice for the Road (and the Bumps) Ahead

Graduation is food for the soul. It's achievement, gratitude and hope gathered in a single day. With any luck, it will help propel some kids who grew up way too fast as they take a running leap into a future. For those of us who have been there, we know there's more than a faceplant or two waiting for them on the other side.

That's why we're suckers for a good graduation speech. A good quote captures the energy of the moment in the context of the challenges we all come against. Here are a few of our favorites that help keep us going.

"Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems. For me, it's been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity. I've been amazed at how one ideas leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander. I know a lot about dinosaurs now, and the information has helped me out of quite a few deadlines.

"A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you'll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead."

"You will be challenged mightily, and you will fall many times. But it is important to remember that it may be necessary to encounter defeat, I don’t know. But I do know that a diamond, one of the most precious elements in this planet, certainly one in many ways the hardest, is the result of extreme pressure, and time. Under less pressure, it’s crystal. Less pressure than that, its coal, less than that, its fossilized leaves are just plain dirt."

“And the good news is that you can will things into existence. Like, I was not a very good writer, and I just willed it to happen by trying and trying and trying. You leave this school as well-armed for battle as anyone is. You're doing as well as anybody. And, in my case, you just have to make up what you're going to be. I would just work and work and work and make up little series that I'll produce on Morning Edition, and ... I just assumed that ideas would be sprinkled on me like fairy dust: You wake up, and you have a good idea. I had to learn that ideas, if you were going to make creative work, you have to find an idea to make the work about. That is a job in itself. And where do ideas come from? They come from other ideas, and you have to surround yourself with things that are interesting to you and notice what is exciting to you and what you want to dive into, and finding what you're going to make your short story or film or song or art project or movie about is a job. Finding what you want to do next is a job. It's a task: You have to set aside hours in the day, and you have to be a soldier, and you have to fight for what you're going to make in yourself."

Barbara Kingsolver at Duke University, 2008

“As you leave here, remember what you loved most in this place. I mean the way you lived, in close and continuous contact. This is an ancient human social construct that was once common in this land. We called it a community. We lived among our villagers, depending on them for what we needed. If we had a problem, we did not discuss it over the phone with someone in Bhubaneswar. We went to a neighbor. We acquired food from farmers. We listened to music in groups, in churches or on front porches. We danced. We participated. Even when there was no money in it. Community is our native state. You play hardest for a hometown crowd. You become your best self. You know joy. You can be as earnest and ridiculous as you need to be, if you don’t attempt it in isolation. The ridiculously earnest are known to travel in groups. And they are known to change the world.”

Congrats to all the graduates and their communities on a job well done. Keep up the good work and you'll continue to go far. And if you're looking for food for your stomach along the way, we can help with that too.

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