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May 17, 2021 5 mins

In this episode of Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2021, Bowen Yang of Saturday Night Live looks back at why he remembers so little from his own graduations, to share some forward-looking suggestions for the graduating class of 2021.

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Speaker 1 (00:07):
To the class of and the family, friends, teachers, and
neighbors who helped them along the way. Congratulations, he did it.
Graduation might look a little different this year, and it'll
almost certainly feel different, But whether you're celebrating with a
small in person crew or gearing up for another virtual event,

(00:28):
this is your moment, which is why we're bringing you
the commencement you deserve, full of wisdom to help you
step into the real world and enter a brand new normal.
Ready to get inspired, put your hands together for one
of this year's incredible commencement speakers, the one the only
Bowen Yang h Hello, class of My name is Bowen

(01:00):
ng and right off the top, I want to say
that my own personal history with commencements is strange, or
at least not memorable. I've only been a part of two,
not counting the convocation for middle school continuation we had
in the fifth grade, and I swear I just went
to public school in the suburbs, even though it sounds
like I was raised on a commune. At high school commencement,

(01:21):
I graduated without honors and saying goodbye bye the Spice
girls with three altos from my choir class. That's right,
it was three altos and one baritone, which is so dumb.
That's all I can remember from that day at college commencement,
I graduated without honors again and despaired over the fact

(01:43):
that everyone around me seemed excited and happy about starting
your lives, while I felt the complete opposite because I
was leaving with a degree I had no idea how
to use. That's all I can remember from that day.
I know a lot of you still aren't able to
attend an in person ceremony, and that's incredibly disappointing. You've

(02:07):
earned this time to celebrate and acknowledge your hard work
with your friends and loved ones. You deserve to have
this accomplishment tied in with some spatial awareness as you
sit in a folding chair on a football field or something.
But I'm willing to bet that each of you are
still figuring out how to celebrate in your own particular
way so that you can take a moment to quietly

(02:30):
triumph by yourself, whether or not pomp and circumstances playing
at your event, virtual or otherwise. You've made it through
a very important period in your life. No matter where
it goes from here, this may or may not be
your last commencement, because life doesn't usually arrange them for
you after this, and so isn't that the point of

(02:51):
graduation ceremonies anyway, to celebrate the fact that celebration is rare,
to have ceremony over the way most of our days
aren't very ceremonious. I know I'm being meta, but I
think the thing that makes graduation meaningful is that it's
meaningful into itself. No matter where you are or how
you're commemorating this, no one can take away that meaning.

(03:14):
My commencements eventually became like any other day that faded
into memory, and I think it's because I was spitting
out both times about what was coming next. Those days
don't stand out as special to me because I didn't
spend them that way, And now years later, my regret
is that I didn't do more to take it all in.
I know that meditation is sexy now and that we're

(03:35):
all mindfulness experts, but I really would have loved to
have had the presence of mind over what the milestone
of it was, to quietly triumph, even when I was
lucky enough to be in a crowd of people cheering.
That's really the only advice. I have to take opportunities
from now on to quietly triumph by yourself, today, tomorrow,

(03:57):
any time the occasion calls for it. Do you have
a tough day at work? Triumph quietly that you got
through it. Are you keeping up a healthy habit that's
hard to maintain? Triumph quietly that you're switching to oat milk.
Did you hang up curtain runs by yourself with no help?
Triumph loudly because that ship is hard. You're going into
a long, challenging, beautiful stretch of your life. The least

(04:21):
you can do is throw a little ceremony in your
head when you've deserved it. You may have to throw
them on your own schedule, but right now, during this commencement,
you can do it at the same time as a
lot of people you love. If you don't, you may
end up like me and all you'll remember is spice
girls and anxiety. But you might still be okay. Congratulations

(04:57):
can You can find the collection of incredible commencement addresses
from all your favorite speakers at the Commencement Podcast on
I Heart Radio or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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