- Posted August 8, 2013 by
Forest Hills,NY 11375, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
My Commencement Address
My first advice is to get out of bed every morning as soon as your alarm rings and be ready for whatever unfolds: a job interview, a fun day with a friend, or the need to accompany a loved one to the doctor. You might even receive a call to rush down to the Today show, and after they fix your hair and make-up, you’ll be ready for prime time. No need to ask timidly, “How about the Tomorrow show?’
My second suggestion is that you perfect your talent, whatever it is. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book Outliers, writes that people who practice a skill 10,000 times are more likely to succeed. On a similar note Adam Gopnick of The New Yorker, the keynote speaker at a recently held Hunter College Writers’ Conference in New York City, shared the following tenet: devote four hours each day for six years to writing if you hope to achieve some kind of mastery.
I’ll now switch gears and tell you about two of my experiences. One mid-day I was crossing First Avenue in Manhattan when I heard the screams of a woman. I looked up and saw her jumping up and down, waving her arm in the air. I froze as a car reversed down the one-way street within minutes of hitting me. Luckily, the woman’s shrieks stopped the driver as well.
One evening I was walking in Grand Central Station when I heard the sound of boots pounding the ground behind me. I turned around and saw policemen running, and they appeared to have their guns drawn. Suddenly, an arm grabbed me and pulled me down to safety; a strange man and I huddled next to each other. Our foreheads pressed against the dirty concrete wall where we stayed until the noise subsided. I cautiously stood up, muttered, “Thank you,” and the kind stranger and I went our separate ways.
I’ve sometimes wondered why people whom I do not know cared whether I lived or died? My life is in no way entwined with theirs. My existence makes no difference to them. Or does it? We each have a gift to share with the world, and if our lives are cut short, there would be a void somewhere in the “great mosaic” we call the universe. Maybe this is why we care about each other.
I’ll close by quoting a few lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” which are worth mulling over.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.
Let us then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate…
Congratulations. Thank you for listening to me.