It’s college commencement season and, with it, come many words of encouragement, humor and inspiration. Here are words from five speakers that can serve as lessons for everyone.
Sen. Angus King spoke at the University of Maine at Presque Isle graduation and shared 10 things he wished someone had told him when he was graduating, including “Don’t write anything into cyberspace you don’t want your grandmother to see on the front page of the Bangor Daily News,” “Treat your first job as the most important job you’ll ever have,” “When in doubt, don’t get married,” and “Be honest even if it hurts.”
The first lesson was: “Take more risks. Take more chances. The greatest impediment to your ability to achieve great things in life is that little man who sits on your shoulder and says, ‘You can’t do that.’ It’s yourself holding yourself back. We do it because we’re afraid of failing,” he said. “It’s OK to make a mistake. There’s a multimillion dollar industry in this country putting erasers on pencils. That means it’s OK to make mistakes.”
And his last lesson was: “Always care for your friends and family because when times get tough they’re all you have.”
Sen. Susan Collins raised the issue of civility in her speech to University of Maine graduates.
“Courage, civility, principles and even wit are increasingly rare commodities in our discourse today. We see this disturbing trend in Washington, and we see this in our own communities. Sitting down with those on the opposite side of an issue, figuring out which issues matter the most to each side, negotiating in good faith, and attempting to reach a solution are actions often vilified by hard-liners on both the left and the right,” she said. “It may seem woefully out of fashion, but I believe that choosing civility and pursuing compromise can yield tremendous results that strengthen our communities and sustain our democratic institutions.”
DeRay McKesson spoke at the University of Southern Maine’s graduation, focusing on the hard work necessary to improve the lives of people who face discrimination. McKesson was named as one of the 30 most influential people on the internet by TIME Magazine in 2016 for his work shaping the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“We have to be OK being honest about the fact that there are not two sides to everything. There aren’t two sides to homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia. There is a right and a wrong. We can’t put ourselves in places where we allow people to debate our humanity,” he said. “When [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] says that the arc bends toward justice, I’m mindful that it only bends because people bend it.”
Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s first secretary of state, delivered remarks at the Virginia Military Institute. He warned the graduates of a “crisis of ethics and integrity” and encouraged adhering to facts.
“It is only by fierce defense of the truth and a common set of facts that we create the conditions for a democratic, free society comprised of richly diverse peoples,” he said. “If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
Bill Green, the TV anchor and reporter who produces Bill Green’s Maine, gave the commencement address at University of Maine at Farmington, telling the graduating class to do what they love and it won’t feel like work, and encouraging pride in this state.
“A mentor of mine was a great outdoor writer who knew the woods and waters of Maine better than me. His name was Bud Leavitt, and he taught me to have pride of place. He lived in Hampden. He was a big burly guy. And he said, ‘There’s more beauty in my backyard than there is in the whole province of Labrador, as far as I’m concerned.’ How cool that it’s given to us to live here, learn here and work here,” Green said.
To close, he said, “So now the fun part begins. Grab your ticket to the greatest show on earth. And do whatever you darn well please with energy, gusto and elan. Remember as you go around to look around. Remember you’re part of the story. Life is a gift that won’t last forever. Treat it tenderly. Be very proud of who you are, where you’re from, where you got your degree — the University of Maine at Farmington — but be humble, and also remember what Bill Green always says, ‘Don’t go bragging just because you’re from Maine.’”