117th Berkeley Commencement

July 16, 2007
RJ Yumang

More than 1,700 students graduated from the University of California, Berkeley today. The ceremony was held at the Greek Theater on the Berkeley campus. At least 7.000 people turned out to watch the event, said Berkeley Chancellor Stephanie Martin.

It was the 117th Berkeley commencement, and among the graduating students were 67 Ph.D. candidates. Another 626 received master’s degrees. Students received degrees in fields ranging from archeology to zoology.

Novelist and essayist Anne Lamott gave the commencement address. Lamott encouraged students to chase dreams but have fun and forget about what others think, while finding out the truth inside of you.

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued,” Lamott said. “Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who are.”

Throughout her speech, Lamott emphasized the importance of finding out what you love in life. With jokes and insight, she spoke of her experiences, and scared parents with her dropout in college, being unemployed, and trying to grasp the idea of dreams and goals while making the most out of life.

Lamott told students to simply live life and to follow their hearts.

“But the thing is you don’t know if you’re going to live long enough to slow down, relax, and have fun, and discover the truth of your spiritual identity,” Lamott said. “You may not be destined to live a long life: you may not have 60 more years to discover and claim your own deepest truth – like Breaker Morant said, you have to live every day as if it’s your last, because one of these days, you’re bound to be right.”

Lamott compared success to greyhounds chasing mechanical rabbits.

“I’d been waiting to be a successful author my whole life. But when I finally did it, I was like a greyhound catching the mechanical rabbit she’d been chasing all her life – metal, wrapped in cloth,” Lamott said, “It wasn’t alive: it had no spirit. It was fake. Fake doesn’t feed anything. Only spirit feeds spirit, in the same way only your own blood type can sustain you. It had nothing that could slake the lifelong thirst I had for a little immediacy, and connection.”

Lamott concluded with a request that the graduates eschew uncomfortable pants.

“Promise me that you’ll never wear pants that blind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you’ve just eaten,” she said. “The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.”

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