[excerpted from a longer post, 8 Suggestions for Graduation Remarks by Principals, published at Connected Principals]
School-leaders and educators preparing remarks for upcoming graduations do well, I think, to draw inspiration from and take quotations from recently published and current books which speak to the way the world is changing and how we all can better be effective in these fast-changing times. This is not to say that we shouldn’t also draw from ancient “wisdom” writings: I do often, especially from the Greeks.
Below is a list of ten titles published in the last 12 months that are well suited, I think, for inspiration and quotation in class of 2011 graduation talks.
1. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas. This title is short, wonderfully readable, and entirely inspiring: there is a world of learning available to us who choose to pursue it.
- “Learning in an Age of Constant Change simply never stops. In the new culture of learning, the bad news it that we rarely reach any final answers. But the good news is that we get to play again, and we may find even more satisfaction in continuing the search.”
2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin. This is his most recent, (I think; he is so prolific that maybe I missed one), but you would do fine if you chose one of his other recent works, such as Linchpin or Tribes. I spoke last year at our school graduation about Tribes, and it was very successful. Godin is enormously quotable, and wonderfully provocative.
- “Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.”
3. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. See Patrick Larkin’s recent post about this book.
- “A crash means we have failed. We gave it everything we had and we came up short. A crash does not mean we are losers…A crash means we are on the threshold of something new.”
4. DIYU: Edupunks, edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamentz. The title speaks for itself.
- “Everyone explores, virtually and actually. Everyone contributes something unique. Everyone learns. This is the essence of the DIYU idea.“
5. The Social Animal by David Brooks. This book is a brilliant resource for a graduation speech, as Brooks reviews a wide array of sociological research to share with readers and give great insight into what qualities of mind and character are best suited for success in our complicated world. David Brooks is a well known Republican columnist.
- “[The teacher] stressed the importance of collecting conflicting information before making up one’s mind, of calibrating one’s certainty level to the strength of the evidence, of enduring uncertainty for long stretches as an answer became clear, of correcting for one’s biases.”
6. Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson. This is my favorite book of the year, and I think it is brilliant. You could write a hundred graduation speeches with the ideas contained within.
- “the most consistently creative individuals have broad social networks that extend far beyond their organization.”
7. What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. This work, which pairs so well with Johnson’s Good Ideas book, is a sweeping tour-de-force book of history and philosophy, and at times it pushes the envelope in its assertions and hypotheses. But though I don’t agree with all of it, it offers great food for thought.
- We generally don’t understand new inventions when they first appear. Every new idea is a bundle of uncertainty.”
8. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. This book will certainly offer principals opportunities to connect with students; imagine them hearing you recognize the positive social value gaming can offer the world!
- “In today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy. Games are providing rewards that reality is not. They are teaching and inspiring and engaging us in ways that reality is not. They are bringing us together in ways reality is not.”
9. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky. This book has a utopian vision of how connectivity can enrich the world, and it is tremendously positive, making it ideal for a graduation ceremony quotation.
- “The range of opportunities we can create for one another is so large, and so different from what life, until recently, was like, that no one person or group and no one set of rules or guides can possibly describe all the possible cases. The single greatest predictor of how much value we can get out of our cognitive surplus is how much we allow and encourage one another to experiment, because the only group that can try everything is everybody.“
10. Why the Net Matters, or Six Easy Ways to Avert the Collapse of Civilization by David Eagleman. Eagleman was very recently featured in the New Yorker, and he is fast becoming a new intellectual force.
- “The nervous system of the net has wrapped our planet like kudzu, working its way into our lives, buildings, economics, and society. What better opportunity is there for naturalists of the early twenty first century than to study, probe, and seek to understand this new creature?
Readers interested in more inspiration for their own graduation addresses are invited to view a set of ten of my favorite such addresses (forgive the self-promotion, please) here. But please note, by no means do I always follow my own advice.
Three favorites among my recent graduation talks:
- We Need You To Lead Us: Inspired by Seth Godin’s Tribes
- From Hollowness to Happiness
- Ethics and Empathy: Imagine Yourself into the Minds of Others
Please use the comment box to share your own suggestions for elementary, middle school, or high school principal graduation speeches and your recommendations for recently published books that would make good fodder for graduation speech quotes.
Happy Writing, and Happy Speaking!