Anne Lamott Addresses Uc Berkeley Graduates

July 17, 2007
Braulio Ramirez

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 spectators witnessed the 117th commencement ceremony, said Berkeley Chancellor Stephanie Martin.

Among the graduating students were 67 Ph.D. candidates. Another 626 received master’s degrees. Students received degrees in fields ranging from archaeology to zoology.

Novelist and essayist Anne Lamott gave the commencement address. Lamott encouraged the students to pursue their creative dreams and, above all, seek their spiritual identities. She also urged them to pursue goals loftier than money.
“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 you are.”

Lamott further explained that the public has gradually tainted the definition of success. She ‘[had] been wanting to be a successful author [her] whole life’ and compared her quest to ‘a greyhound catching the mechanical rabbit.’ Lamott presented the rabbit as a symbol for what people think is ‘true’ success.

Lamott continued to reason that society spreads futuristic ideals of success. “But the culture lies,” she proclaimed.
“What you’re looking for is already inside you. You’ve heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it,” she explained. “The best job in the world can’t give it to you. Neither can success, or fame, or financial security.”

Lamott stressed that success is not measured in wealth but rather in character. She continued to emphasize that before fortune and fame comes one’s own spiritual identity.

“You are spirit, you are love,” she said. “You are free.”

Lamott transmitted some of her life-experiences to the students. She returned to the culture’s view of success, especially that which parents hold for their children. She continued to tell the students that if their parents expected them to make a name for themselves in a particular field, than perhaps the students should show their parents to the UC, Berkeley admissions office.

“You’ve graduated. You have nothing left to prove,” she said.

But above all else, wear comfortable pants.

“Promise me that you’ll never wear pants that bind 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 and going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.”

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