Berkeley Graduates Addressed By Anne Lamott

uly 16, 2007
By Nettra Pan

More than 1,700 students graduated today, from the University of California, Berkeley. The ceremony was held at the Greek Theater on the Berkeley campus. At least 7,000 spectators turned out to watch the event, said Berkeley Chancellor Stephanie Martin.

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

Novelist and essayist Anne Lamott gave the commencement address. She encouraged students to follow their “creative dreams” despite social pressures to chase success, fame and financial security.

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued,” she 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.”

She later explained how she discovered the truth about her own success.

“I’d been wanting to be a successful author my whole life. But when I finally did it, I was like a greyhound catching a mechanical rabbit she’d been chasing all her life,” Lamott said, “It was fake.”

Lamott made references to well-known figures in an attempt to emphasize to the graduates the value of “spiritual identity.”
“You are spirit, you are love,” the 49-year-old author reminded the Berkeley graduates, “And, while it is increasingly hard to believe during this presidency, you are free.” She also likened the student’s spirit to “a little Dr. Seuss firefly” more worthy of being listened to than societal ideals.

Finally, Lamott concluded with a request that the graduates avoid wearing uncomfortable 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 going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.”

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