Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Commencement Speech That Never Was

Well, my commencement speech was turned down in favor of a classmate's. But that doesn't mean I can't give the speech right here... on my blog!

Esteemed professors, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow classmates,

As we stand here today, it’s hard not to look back at the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young students we were when we entered graduate school, 5, 6, or even 8 years ago. And if you’re like me, you can’t help but ask yourself: “What was I thinking?!” And yet, that is where the growth is. The fact that we can look back and see ourselves so far away is a reminder of how far we’ve come, each and every one of us.

My first year in graduate school, a professor told me, “In science, there’s a lot of delayed gratification.” At the time, I didn’t know what he was talking about. But today, I think every single one of us standing up here can appreciate the wisdom in those words. In science, a single experiment can take months, or even years. And you don’t know how it’s going to turn out! When you’re in the trenches, it’s only natural to question why you signed up for this mission in the first place.

But if you’re standing here today, it means you’ve learned to deal with that kind of uncertainty. You’ve learned to stop worrying and enjoy the experiment – discovered that it’s the process, not the destination, that counts. And once you realize that, you can’t help but feel grateful for the tremendous privilege we’ve enjoyed these last few years. We have gotten paid to do what we love. We have been able to play with molecules the way a child plays with tinkertoys, taking the pieces apart, putting them back together, or perhaps trying to build them into something new entirely. Yes, it has been very hard work. But precisely because it’s so challenging – precisely because it’s so uncertain – there’s a sense of adventure about every single experiment, and a pride we feel when we see the results.

So sing with me now:

"You can’t always get what you wa-ant.

You can’t always get what you wa-ant.

But if you try sometimes,

You just might find,

You get what you need!"

Congratulations class of 2009!


6 comments:

therapydoc said...

They just don't understand the importance of exclamation points. This is the best graduation speech ever, and the shortest. mazal tov, look forward to the real mccoy.

Dave L said...

I think that if you got the Rolling Stones to agree to sing at your graduation you would have been chosen to give the commencement address.

Samurai Scientist said...

@td,
This is the best graduation speech ever, and the shortest.

Thanks, I thought so!

@Dave,
I think that if you got the Rolling Stones to agree to sing at your graduation you would have been chosen to give the commencement address.

Maybe I should ask my buddy Mick Jagger to pull some strings?

YZF said...

I actually heard this on the radio today. Would've been a hoot to see a bunch of science grads singing it, YouTube sensation for sure.

Dvora Meyers said...

I agree with therapydoc- the value of exclamation points is frequently underestimated. Without them, how would one know when to squeal like a schoolgirl while reading your words?

Perhaps if you had included a quote from Calvin & Hobbes (as I did during my valedictory address from high school), they would've let you read at commencement. And I doubt the good folks at Berkley would've asked you to include "more Torah values" in the speech as I was asked.

Samurai Scientist said...

@YZF,
Would've been a hoot to see a bunch of science grads singing it, YouTube sensation for sure.

And isn't that our dream?

@Dvo,
I doubt the good folks at Berkley would've asked you to include "more Torah values" in the speech as I was asked.

I thought the hippie values in my speech would be a selling point. Maybe I overdid it.

PhD Comics