Monday, May 12, 2008

Barbara Kingsolver Commencement Address 2008

Smart lady. Smart words.

From: Barbara Kingsolver's commencement speech titled "How to be Hopeful." Prepared for delivery at Duke's 2008 commencement ceremony May 11 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Here's some of her thoughts for the graduates--


My younger daughter is eleven. Every morning, she and I walk down the lane from our farm to the place where she meets the school bus. It’s the best part of my day. We have great conversations. But a few weeks ago as we stood waiting in the dawn’s early light, Lily was quietly looking me over, and finally said: “Mom, just so you know, the only reason I’m letting you wear that outfit is because of your age.” The alleged outfit will not be described here; whatever you’re imagining will perfectly suffice. (Especially if you’re picturing “Project Runway” meets “Working with Livestock.”) Now, I believe parents should uphold respect for adult authority, so I did what I had to do. I hid behind the barn when the bus came.

And then I walked back up the lane in my fly regalia, contemplating this new equation: “Because of your age.” It’s okay now to deck out and turn up as the village idiot. Hooray! I am old enough. How does this happen? Over a certain age, do you become invisible? There is considerable evidence for this in movies and television. But mainly, I think, you’re not expected to know the rules. Everyone knows you’re operating on software that hasn’t been updated for a good while.

*

If somebody says “Your money or your life,” you could say: Life. And mean it. You’ll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck –- those will be yours.

*

Hope; An Owner’s Manual

Look, you might as well know, this thing
is going to take endless repair: rubber bands,
crazy glue, tapioca, the square of the hypotenuse.
Nineteenth century novels. Heartstrings, sunrise:
all of these are useful. Also, feathers.

To keep it humming, sometimes you have to stand
on an incline, where everything looks possible;
on the line you drew yourself. Or in
the grocery line, making faces at a toddler
secretly, over his mother’s shoulder.

You might have to pop the clutch and run
past all the evidence. Past everyone who is
laughing or praying for you. Definitely you don’t
want to go directly to jail, but still, here you go,
passing time, passing strange. Don’t pass this up.

In the worst of times, you will have to pass it off.
Park it and fly by the seat of your pants. With nothing
in the bank, you’ll still want to take the express.
Tiptoe past the dogs of the apocalypse that are sleeping
in the shade of your future. Pay at the window.
Pass your hope like a bad check.
You might still have just enough time. To make a deposit.



You can read the full speech here (thanks to Jilly's Poetry Hut blog for helping me find this)

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