The UoH convocation is scheduled for October 1. Since we mark October 2 as our Foundation Day, and October 2 will always be a holiday in India, the suggestion that October 1 henceforth be the “University Convocation Day” has some merit. It would, for one thing, greatly help in scheduling.
The convocation speaker this year will be Dr Anil Kakodkar, eminent nuclear scientist and former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, former Director of the BARC, Mumbai. A man of many parts, Dr Kakodkar is known for being unabashedly self-reliant on matters nuclear, while also calling for more stringent safeguards, particularly in the wake of Fukushima.
One of the highlights at the Convocation is the speech by the chief guest, and while its not certain what Dr Kakodkar will talk about, I was thinking about the Vonnegut Commencement speech that made the rounds of the internet some years ago. For those who will graduate this year, and will be too young to have known about it (or who would not care, anyway) in the late 1990’s, a speech was circulated (largely by email) purporting to be the text of the Commencement Address by Kurt Vonnegut Jr at MIT. This was a hoax- the speech was written by Mary Schmich under her own name in the Chicago Tribune, but viral spreading through the internet brought it a certain amount of fame and some unwanted notoriety. In any case, the speech, while not particularly deep, has many nice parts to it, and for those who may not have come across it before, here are excerpts (taken from Andrea Wesseleyi’s site where a fuller description of the whole story can be found).
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97: Wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
Addendum: A reader of the blog told me that this “speech” was set to music by Baz Luhrmann so maybe many of you would have heard it before. In case you haven’t, here is the Youtube link.