My Commencement Address...
To the World

In my essay last week, I reflected upon the question, What’s it all about, Alfie? One of my mentors, Steve Jobs, wrestled with this issue also in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005. This was his insight.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Jobs was correct. To answer the question, What’s it all about, Alfie, life must be seen retrospectively. We can’t grasp the meaning of life as we are in the midst of it. He ended his address with two statements. Which were on the back cover of Whole Earth Catalog (WEC). Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Whole Earth Catalog

As I finished my essay and had it posted to my website, I sat and pondered. Jobs and I have had similar adventures on our yellow brick roads of life. The parallels are striking. I understood nearly every example or statement Jobs mentioned in his 14:32 commencement address because I had been there. I understood even his closing statement: Stay hungry. Stay foolish. There I was, deep in thought. I wondered what I would say at my second commencement address. Even my first graduation address resonated with his at Standford.

In my twilight years, what would I tell my listeners today? Therefore, this is the closing part of my commencement address to the world. This is my version of Jobs’ suggestion to the graduating class. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I have five suggestions that I wish to convey.

  1. Ibn Battuta said, “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Travel will open your mind. I have a great deal of time overseas, and Battuta is correct.
  2. “It is in giving that we get.” I came up with that comment one day, seemingly out of nowhere. It is absolutely true. I have benefited from that insight, but someone else must have thought a similar thing. So, I googled it. St. Francis said, “For it is giving that we receive.” The more you give, the richer you will be.
  3. My third suggestion was something that Bobby Kennedy paraphrased from George Bernard Shaw’s play, Back To Methuselah. Bobby didn’t have to google it. He simply remembered it. His paraphrase is, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” 
  4. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short poem, Eldorado.
  5. Gaily bedight,
    A gallant knight,
    In sunshine and in shadow,   
    Had journeyed long,  
    Singing a song,
    In search of Eldorado.

    But he grew old—
    This knight so bold— 
    And o’er his heart a shadow—   
    Fell as he found
    No spot of ground
    That looked like Eldorado.

    And, as his strength   
    Failed him at length,
    He met a pilgrim shadow—
    ‘Shadow,’ said he,
    ‘Where can it be—
    This land of Eldorado?’

    ‘Over the Mountains
    Of the Moon,
    Down the Valley of the Shadow,
    Ride, boldly ride,’
    The shade replied,—
    ‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

    I also seek that utopian destination, and I will ride boldly until I find Eldorado.

  6. However, some question my drive in life. This is my poetic retort, The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near, 
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

My suggestions to the graduating class of the world are to remember this handful of messages. They will change your life and provide you with a meaningful purpose.

This link contains Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford University.