For this Throw Back Thursday, we’re not turning the clock back very far. It was only about six weeks ago when words of wisdom rang across Brookings Quad at Commencement 2017. A recent article with excerpts from several campus speeches inspired me to go back to the transcript of Anna Quindlen’s impassioned oratory at WashU on May 19. She urged – dared is more accurate – graduates to throw out their best laid plans.
“Jane Austen threw out the plan for a well‑read regency‑era woman. Frank Lloyd Wright threw out the plan for a young architect of his time. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Enrico Fermi, Lin‑Manuel Miranda, Martin Luther King, Marie Curie, Pablo Picasso, Toni Morrison, they all threw out the plan. The right answer was safe; the wrong answer, the one no one else came up with or followed or believed in, was transformational.”
Quindlen, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has taken many daring leaps in her career and life and advised her audience to avoid the road well-traveled, “Caution is nothing but fear dressed up as common sense. Coloring books have come back into vogue for adults because there’s nothing quite so soothing as coloring inside the lines.” Dare to color outside the lines, she urged:
“…you can’t let fear rule you. For your own sake and for the sake of this great nation, fear is what has poisoned our culture, our community and our character. The very worst things in this country are done out of fear. Homophobia, sexism, racism, religious bigotry, xenophobia, the embrace of demagogues, they all arise out of fear of that which is unknown or different.
“Our political leaders don’t actually lead when they are afraid of being thrown out of office. Our corporations resist real innovation because they’re afraid of taking a chance.”
Resist fear, be daring, and be kind while you are pursuing a plan of your choosing. Read the whole speech and other Commencement speeches from the past with the links below.
Link to related news release on Quindlen’s speech.
Link to related article on past graduation speeches at WashU.