Advice for graduates: Pondering the big questions

Questions we should all take time to consider

graduation, soybean field, advice for life,
(Farm and Dairy/Susan Crowell photo)

By Susan Crowell /

Once again, it’s graduation time and I didn’t get a call from Hiland High School or Kent State University for a commencement speech. (Clearly, the statute of limitations on, ahem, ornery behavior hasn’t expired — nor enough teachers’ memories dimmed.)

I’m enough of a communications geek that I collect commencement speeches. No really, I have a folder on my computer hard drive labeled “commencement speeches.” I mean, one must be prepared for that phone call.

I’ve slacked in recent years, but I’ve gathered the text from 26 different commencement speakers — from rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s 2001 address at Monmouth University and Woody Hayes’ 1986 remarks at Ohio State University, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s speech to Harvard grads in 2017.

This year, an unusual speech caught my eye. At a ceremony for first-generation graduates at Tufts University, James Glaser, dean of the school of arts and sciences, gave a commencement address comprised entirely of questions (because a university is a place of questions, and finding answers).

So I stole his idea and crafted a few questions of my own for graduates of any age or stage, including many of us far removed from our formal schooling.

How have you changed in the last four years?

Why are you scared? If you were dying, would you worry about this?

What makes you really happy? What makes you laugh?

Are you willing to work hard?

Read Susan Crowell’s graduation advice to her children:

Advice for life: Get up eight

Advice for life: Listen to your coach

If you ran a tournament bracket of your goals, what would be in the Final Four? What would be the in the top spot?

Have you written down that goal? Have you shared that goal with someone else?

How will you know if you’re on track?

Burgers or brats?

Do you trust your gut?

What do you want your album of memories to look like when you’re 30? When you’re 60?

Did you know you’re pretty amazing?

What will you commence doing today?

Will you fight for a cause greater than your own profit?

If your life was made into a movie, what actor would play your role?

Will you embrace leadership or leadersheep?

What five things are you grateful for today?

Why not?

How do your friends describe you? Is that how you want to be known?

What habits do you need to break? What habits do you need to build?

How can you help one person today?



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