No signs but a tie you couldn't miss


Speeches at college graduation ceremonies are pretty rote: "Congratulations, graduating class. Believe in yourself. The sky is the limit. Best of luck."

Most of the time, there's so much else going on - families snapping photographs and making videos, friends tossing beach balls back and forth - that you don't hear much anyway.

If you think about it, though, some top-notch world leaders, writers and musicians speak at graduations. And they often share tips or personal experiences that they culled on the way to success.

So, in case you zoned out, I've compiled a few sound bites worth remembering (or at least reading once) from this year's commencement speeches:

"Remember that the path to success and fulfillment may not be well-marked, the scaling of some predetermined ladder; it may instead be a road without signs or maps."

- Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Don't believe them when they tell you how bad you are or how terrible your ideas are, but also, don't believe them when they tell you how wonderful you are and how great your ideas are. Just believe in yourself and you'll do just fine. And, oh yes, don't then forget to market yourself and your ideas. Use both sides of your brain."

- Michael Uslan, movie producer, at Indiana University, Bloomington

"We live in a time when it is rare to meet people in their 20s and 30s who have stayed with something for more than a few years. And certainly, in some cases, the right thing is to experiment and move on. But in other cases, the right thing is to stay with something, internalize tough lessons and push yourself to new levels of knowledge and responsibility. Your idealism can enable you to pursue noble aims, but it takes hard work and personal growth and a kind of determined patience to see them actually come to be."

- Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach for America, at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"Fifty years ago almost to this very day, I received my undergraduate degree in college. The commencement speaker was a man who wore the gaudiest red tie I had ever seen in my life. And he wore it because he said he wanted us, the Class of 1956, to remember him.

He said, `Nobody in their right mind, particularly those graduating, listens to commencement speeches. So you won't remember anything I say. You won't remember my name, or even what I look like, but maybe you will remember this awful red tie.'"

- Jim Lehrer, journalist, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Carolyn Bigda writes for Tribune Media Services.

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