I just wanted to say to the president and the administration five words…: “Thank you for this privilege.” And to my teachers, my professors who I had then and to the professors here now, I say four words: “I cherish your guidance.” And to the graduating class of 2023, I say three words: “You poor bastards.”
…Your concerns as you stumble out into reality tomorrow are massive. Democracy is crumbling. Truth is up for grabs. The planet’s trying to kill us, and loneliness is driving everyone insane.
…I basically breezed into a world full of trivia and silliness and fun. You are about to enter a hellscape where you will have to fight for every scrap of your humanity and your dignity.
…You do not have a choice to be anything but extraordinary. Those are the times you’re living in right now [Patton Oswalt, commencement address, College of William and Mary, 2023.05.19, transcribed from Youtube by CAH/DFP].
Yet the extraordinarity to which self-depracting 2.8-GPA graduate Oswalt summons this year’s graduates includes a radical whimsical randomness:
Take a lead from the daydreamers and the confused and the seekers. Obviously you should work hard, and play hard, but you should also wander easy….
Everything extraordinary in my life came from the wandering. And that’s not to say I didn’t work hard and that you shouldn’t work hard, but don’t work hard to acquire things. Word hard so that you can buy yourself the time to wander easy.
Use whatever skills you have to carve out days of randomness and adventure, because there are people out there—and they’ve always been out there, just these days they’re louder and they have more toys to amplify their voice—but there are people out there who want to manage every moment, they want to divvy up every dream, and they want to commodify every crazy caprice that springs out of your cranium. Don’t let them. Be human in all of its bedlam and beauty and madness and mercy for as long as you can and in any way you can [Oswalt, 2023.05.19].
Labor and material wealth should not form the center of our lives. We must labor and accumulate some wealth to survive. But we labor and store up wealth to make possible the days we need to muse and dream and come up with the extraordinary empathy, ideas, and radical departures from plan and past necessary to save the future.