My Favorite 2011 Commencement Address

July 21, 2011

In the previous post, we examined the top ten commencement addresses of 2011 as determined by The Huffington Post. Overall, it was a pretty good list with a wide variety and selection of speakers.

But one great speech was left out, most likely because the speech occurred after The Huffington Post published their list. This year, my favorite commencement address was delivered by Stephen Colbert to Northwestern University on June 17.

Why was it my favorite? Simply because Colbert’s speech was the perfect combination of humor and words of wisdom. And it didn’t hurt that I really agree with the tips he shared from his improv days at Second City and his thoughts about service.

I’ll be the first one to admit that my feelings about Colbert change quite often when watching his program, The Colbert Report. There are many days I will laugh hysterically and other days when I’m just not in the mood to watch at all. But one thing I strongly admire about Colbert is his ability to write funny jokes about serious topics…and he does that here in the commencement address to Northwestern University.

Here are a few key thoughts:

On following our dreams…”dreams can change…if we’d all stick with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses. So whatever your dream is right now, if you don’t achieve it, you haven’t failed..and your not some loser.”

On service…”service is love made visible…try to love others and serve others – and hopefully find those who’ll love and serve you in return.”

On improvisation…”you are not the most important person in the scene, everybody else is.” He also went on to say, “you cannot win improv – and life is like an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just yanking ideas out of your ass as you go along. And like improv, you cannot win your life – even when it might look like your winning.”

Do yourself a favor…check out Colbert’s speech…and let me know what you think.