Monday, June 22, 2009

Commencement Speech Nation

It will take someone smarter than me -- or at least someone more interested in making faux-profound statements about cultural trends -- to figure out why commencement speeches are all the rage, but they are.

The precursor to all this seems to have been the speech falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut that made the rounds back in the late '90s. Then Conan O'Brien's 2000 address at Harvard got passed around on the web. (It included many great lines, including: "I wrote a thesis: Literary Progeria in the works of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. Let's just say that, during my discussions with Pauly Shore, it doesn't come up much.") And now in stores, in addition to the book of David Foster Wallace's commencement address (more on that at another time, possibly), there's a book based on a talk to grads by Ann Patchett.

So before this one picks up an unstoppable head of steam, I thought I'd share it: It's Paul Tudor Jones, a billionaire and philanthropist, addressing a group of ninth-graders earlier this month. (Let's not get started on ninth-graders having a graduation ceremony. Barack Obama addressed this kind of thing on the campaign trail, and I think he said something like, paraphrasing, "Great, you finished ninth grade. Now go get ready for 10th.") Anyway, Jones' approach still makes for a fun read, and it does seem possible that pitching these speeches to younger students makes them more useful and universal somehow (the speeches, not the students). This one takes failure as its subject, and here it is:

Paul Tudor Jones - Failure Speech June 2009

(Via The Browser)


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