Berkeley Graduation

July 17, 2007
Sara Furuno

More than 17,00 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 turned out to watch the event, said Berkeley Chancellor Stephanie Martin.

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

Novelist and essayist Anne Lamott gave the commencement address. Lamott encouraged students to slow down and discover who they are. She urged them to find what they love in life and to follow their dreams.

“But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. 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 said.

Lamott began with her own college experience, and how she dropped out of Goucher College in Maryland at 19 to become a writer. She spoke of both the hardships and greater parts of her career. Lamott’s speech warned the students to avoid becoming consumed by their goals and stressed the importance of life.

“I’d been wanting 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 up in cloth. It wasn’t alive; it had no spirit. It was fake,” said Lamott. “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.”

To Lamott, spirit is a rare and divine experience, “like a little Dr. Seuss firefly.” She believed that in order to live life, the spirit should slow down. It must “live in the now,” but must remember to never surrender to other people’s goals.

“Just be where your butts are, and breathe,” said Lamott. “Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is trying to shame you into hopping right back up onto the rat exercise wheel. Rest, but pay attention. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is stealing your freedom, your personal and civil liberties, and then smirking about it.”

Lamott concluded by advising students to never wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin.

“Promise me you’ll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you’ve just eaten,” Lamott 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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