Two themes emerged from the speeches at my son’s college commencement Sunday — Slow down. And don’t take any bullshit.
First, the bullshit. The student who was selected to address the undergraduates told of growing up in Zimbabwe, how he was bitten by a poisonous snake and had to have his right leg amputated.
An older relative told him he was disabled and therefore useless, and shouldn’t bother to go to college. The student paused to let that sink in to the now-quiet grads and their families, and then said softly, “Bullshit.”
He won the crowd over at that moment. This young man, about to receive a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, immediately became my favorite commencement speaker ever.
The “elders” who spoke Sunday also were inspirational, including the college president who warned the graduates of the downside to this fast-paced world. He cited Mark Taylor’s book, “Speed Limits,” and how the push to do everything faster is taking a serious toll on us as individuals and as a society.
Slow down, the president said.
But here’s the thing that stuck with me more than that sage advice.
The president, and the commencement speaker he introduced, both gave a sobering nod to the instant gratification and short attention spans that surround us. Two or three minutes into his address, the president said he would keep it short because he had reached the point where the audience starts texting or sending messages.
Then the main speaker, early in her address, said she was worried about what the students would tweet about her — as she spoke.
While both those comments brought chuckles, they seem a sad reminder of how technology has taken over our lives, and is interfering with genuine human interaction. All for the sake of immediacy and, yes, superficiality.
I’m confident the hundreds of graduates and their families were paying attention yesterday. I just hope there’s enough space — not “bandwidth” — in their brains for those valuable lessons to stay with them.
So if you’ve gotten this far, here’s a reminder that’s short enough even for Twitter: Slow down. And don’t take any bullshit.