Honorary Doctor John Green

Such a timely, eloquent, funny, and smart-witted commencement speech given by one of my favorite authors, Mr. John Green, at Butler University for their May 11th, 2013 Spring Graduation.

My favorite part?

John Green’s few pieces of what he believes to be “rock-solid advice about proper adulthood or whatever”:

**First, do not worry too much about your lawn…I encourage you to choose better obsessions.

**Also, you may have heard that it is better to burn out than it is to fade away. That is ridiculous. It is much better to fade away. Always. Fade. Away.

**Keep reading. Specifically, read my books, ideally in hardcover. But also keep reading other books. You have probably figured out by now that education is not really about grades or getting a job; it’s primarily about becoming a more aware and engaged observer of the universe. If that ends with college, you’re rather wasting your one and only known chance at consciousness.

**Also a word about the Internet: Old people like myself are terrified by their ignorance of it, which you can and should use to your advantage by saying things at your job like, “You don’t have a Tumblr? Oh you should really have a Tumblr. I can set you up with that.”

**Try not to worry so much about what you are going to do with your life. You are already doing what you are going to do with your life, and judging by your gowned-ness, you’re doing all right.

**On that topic, there are many more jobs out there than you have ever heard of. Your dream job might not yet exist. If you had told College Me that I would become a professional YouTuber, I would’ve been like, “That is not a word, and it never should be.”

**And lastly, be vigilant in the struggle toward empathy… For the rest of your life, you are going to have a choice about how to read graffiti in a language you do not know, and you will have a choice about how to read the actions and intonations of the people you meet…(Consider) the possibility that the lives and experiences of others are as complex and unpredictable as your own, that other people—be they family or strangers, near or far—are not simply one thing or the other—not simply good or evil or wise or ignorant—but that they like you contain multitudes, to borrow a phrase from the great Walt Whitman.

This is difficult to do—it is difficult to remember that people with lives different and distant from your own even celebrate birthdays, let alone with gifts of graffiti-ed plywood. You will always be stuck inside of your body, with your consciousness, seeing through the world through your own eyes, but the gift and challenge of your education is to see others as they see themselves, to grapple with this mean and crazy and beautiful world in all its baffling complexity.