Dr Eleanor Catton was the star speaker in New Zealand’s recent round of graduation ceremonies. The Booker Prize winner, having bagged an honorary doctorate, delivered an address to Victoria University of Wellington graduands focused on “that fearless, formidable Big Bang of a word, If”. Her conclusion: “infinities await. May you continue to ask what if, and may that question give rise to many more.”
Advice has abounded in the US of late, too.
At The Week, Marc Ambinder collects some of the “wisdomic pearls” from the speeches.
At George Washington University, chef José Andrés’s advice relates to an “if”: “If things don’t go as expected, make the unexpected work in your favour. Change the name of the dish.”
At Merrimack College, actor Charlie Day said: “Here’s my advice. Don’t worry about that girl – she’s not into you. Let it go.”
In his address, Admiral William McRaven, commander of the US Special Operations Command, includes this morsel: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”
And from scientist Bill Nye, at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell addresses a specific ”if”: “If you smell fresh paint, don’t walk under the ladder. Don’t wear shoes from a thumbtack factory and don’t try and smoke in the rain. In fact, don’t try and smoke at all.”
See also: Bad opinions – six of the best