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2010 Commencement Speech

2010 Commencement Speech

Congratulations, class of 2010. Earning a degree from Queens College is a splendid achievement, and you should be as proud of yourself as we are of you. And congratulations to all the faculty, parents, and family members who are here with us today. You have done a superb job by helping these young men and women reach their goal.

When I started to write my remarks for today, I too had a goal: I would write the shortest graduation speech ever. So you can imagine my disappointment when someone told me about a graduation speech delivered at a college in New Hampshire, which I will now quote in its entirety: “Know yourself—Socrates. Control yourself—Cicero. Give yourself—Jesus.”

A nine-word speech. And it’s terrific. I can’t top that. Instead, I will say:
Know yourself. Know your own skills and know what makes you happy. Know and honor your heritage, and especially honor your family. Knowing these things will give you a foundation from which you can go anywhere you want.

Control yourself. Focus your energies on the present. Do not be sidetracked by the trendy or by hollow promises of wealth and fame. And do not be frightened of challenges or of failing. Keep your eyes and mind open and you will succeed.
Give yourself. Hold nothing back. As I and the members of the graduating classes of 1950 and 1960 know only too well, time flies. And you want to know fifty and sixty years from now that you gave the world all your ideas and every ounce of your energy, and the world will be a better place because you did.

I hesitate to offer advice when I am in the company of Socrates, Cicero, and Jesus, but I would like to add something for you to consider: Know the difference between pleasure and happiness. And by that I mean pleasure is a flash of lightning, something you can’t share with others because by the time you point to it, it is gone, and you don’t know when it will strike next. Happiness is a long summer afternoon. It too will not last forever, but at least you can stretch out and enjoy it and share it with others. And if you have happiness once, you know it is like a season that will return later. Pleasure usually comes from the things you do for yourself, whereas you will find most of your happiness by the things you do for others. So make sure you do as much as you can for other people, and then lie back and enjoy those summer days.

Know the difference between pleasure and happiness—Muyskens. That’s only eight words. I now have my complete speech for next year’s commencement.

But there are not enough words for me to express my affection and admiration for the class of 2010, so let me conclude by saying that you are terrific and the world is now yours to shape. Take it by storm as you can only make it a better place for us all. Thank you.


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