Congratulations, By the Way

I know, right? What am I doing posting on a Saturday night – during a holiday weekend no less? Well, the truth is, last night I woke up in a hot sweat thinking that there might be someone out there who has not read Congratulations, By The Way, the book version of George Saunders’ now-famous convocation speech given last June at Syracuse University. And if that is indeed the case, I felt the need to remedy the situation immediately. I know we here at DALS tend to get hyperbolic when the subject is Saunders (author of the award-winning short-story collection Tenth of December and one of the original DALS guest-posters), but diehard readers know why. His writing is big-hearted and generous; his capacity for empathy, seemingly endless. What he regrets most in life, Saunders tells graduating seniors, are failures of kindness.

I believe that by handing Congratulations to a graduate or a friend, you are handing them not just a book, but a message, a philosophy, a worldview.

Here’s one of my favorite moments in the speech:

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. You will gradually be replaced by love. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to you, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

We like the message of this book so much we bought it for every graduating senior in our town’s high school. (It’s a tiny class and we got a discount since — full disclosure here — Andy is the editor, so we may not be quite as kind as I’m making us out to be.) And we want to start spreading the word in your corner of the world, too. So we’re giving away ten copies this weekend…as in right now! It’s going to be a little different this time, though — there will be five winners total, and each winner will receive two copies, one for you, and, in the spirit of kindness, one to hand to someone who you love. Contest ends Memorial Day at 5:00 ET.  Comment below to be eligible. Good luck!
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How do you know a book is gift-worthy? When it’s designed and illustrated by Chelsea Cardinal, that’s how!
Contest Update: All the winners have been notified. Congrats to Nicola (198), Amy (216), Liesel (238), Nina (272), and Sarah (295). Thanks to everyone who played!
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322 Comments

Beth S

I would love to read this and share it with my sons (a college freshman, High School junior, and an 8th grader).

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Jan @ Family Bites

So thoughtful of you! My oldest is graduating 8th grade in a few weeks – a pretty big deal in Canada – and heading to high school in September, so right now we’re talking a lot about futures, goals and accomplishments. I love the passage in the last photo you posted!

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Jmbh

Well…I think that even if I don’t win I’ll have to get a few copies! Pick me anyway?!

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Naria

I’m not commenting to enter the contest, but just to tell you both how g-damn cool I think it is that you gave this book to every senior at DFHS. Seriously. Nice move. Proud to call you guys my friends.

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Emily

I was already trying to hunt down a copy of this book before I ever made it to the giveaway part of your post. I’d love copies – one to read and one to share. :o ) Happy Memorial Day!

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Julie

This sounds like a wonderful book. My son just graduated from college and it would be a great gift.

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Cliff Bacon

Can NOT wait to read this book, either from you or from my friendly bok store. Your gift to the grads is awesome!

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ellen

Looks like a great book and I have a graduating nephew to share it with this year!

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Kris

Thank you for pointing this book out! We have a graduating senior that could be really perfect for this book.

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Kate Bassett

Whether I win or not, I’ll definitely have to grab one for me and one for my nephew (whose dad is a Syracuse grad)!

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LG

I know just the person to give this to. Thanks for sharing George Saunders with those of us who didn’t know of him before. I loved 10th of December but never would have read it if not for this website.

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Jean

Thanks for this post! If I am not a recipient of your giveaway I’ll definitely go seek this book out. The description of a parents pride at their child’s accomplishment, self diminishment, was abundant a week ago in our household as I first watched my middle daughter graduate undergrad, then my youngest daughter graduate HS and finally all of us flying to NYC to watch my oldest graduate grad school. All in one weeks time! My heart skips a beat as I watch each child become such accomplished, gracious young women.

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Jessy

Sounds like a great gift! I have in mind the perfect person to share this with!

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Kim

What in the what?… Posting on a Saturday? But for a good reason, true. Happy Memorial Day! Have a few peeps in mind for this tome! Thanks!

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Kristen S

Would love to read this and give a coot to my brother who just graduated!

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Sadie

Oh I just adore all that I have read about this book and my alma mater is Syracuse so that piece makes me so nostalgic. Sigh….

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Christina G

I have a graduation 8th grade son, would love to gift this to him!

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Ann Marie

My oldest child is graduating high school in June. Love to win for him!!!

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Molly

I love the little excerpt you chose to share – definitely adding this to my list of books to read.

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Kat

My sister just graduated law school! Even if I don’t win I need to go find a copy :)

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Shawne Taylor

My always-homeschooled teenage son just finished up, and graduated highschool last week. This would be a great gift for him. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

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Selina

Always good to be reminded to think about kindness. I love that you’re giving two away so we can put kindness into practice. Thank you!

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Ruthanne

Many graduates in our lives this year. Thank you for the idea as well as this kind opportunity!

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Caitlin

a new post– way to be rewarded for relaxing at home on a Saturday night!

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Alexi Wright

We have two recent college graduates in our life-Dan and Michael-who for the past two years have generously shared their creative talents in acapella, improv, and hardcore play with our sweet son Tomas-all the while answering his (and occasionally our) big questions about religion, slavery, and slapstick comedy. Most of all they taught our son that grown men can care about more than sports and can love a little guy with open hearts.

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Joan

I’d love to read this and share with the THREE kids I have in college!

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Bridgit

Sounds fantastic… My sister in law, a voracious reader and brand new graduate, would love a copy.

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JP

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

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nicole o

oh, I read a piece of his speech.. I have been thinking about it for weeks!

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Samantha Steele

Would love to have these for the seniors of the very tiny graduating class at the school where I am a teacher!

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ag.

I want to go buy this, like, right now. Having just become a mom last year, that passage you posted so speaks to me. Love is a funny and oh so wonderful thing!

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Tenely Smith

I work at a bookstore and frequently sell this boom as a graduation gift, but have never actually read it. Now I will!

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Kim

Would love to share this with my late brother’s son. I am so proud of the challenges my nephew has overcome but I don’t know him as well as I would like and this would be a lovely way to connect.

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Jess

I can think of so many people who would benefit from this message… including, far too often, myself.

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Mandy

My baby sister is graduating in a couple of weeks (and I teach high school). This book looks incredible! Thanks for hosting the giveaway! Can’t wait for your next cookbook to come out!

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Christina

Yay! I loved this speech when I read it way back when you posted a link to it the first time around. Loved it!

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Kathleen Hagerty

The post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this. No matter what will get a book for my daughter’s college graduation next year from Johns Hopkins and even for my sons from pre school! xo found cute pics from Honey Adams and you were so tiny and precious!

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Amy

This sounds amazing! As a mom to two very little guys, I get this. Can’t wait to read and share.

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Amy

I would love to gift this to my graduating 8th grader. Thanks for highlighting, even on a Saturday on a holiday weekend!

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Jessica

I keep coming back to that phrase “failures of kindness.” Man, does that pack a punch.

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Christine

This is such a thoughtful idea! I love this speech – what a gift to be able to share it with others:-)

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Marianne A.

I have been wanting to read this speech since hearing about it this time last year. Oh, and I am a Syracuse grad, class of ’87.

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cck

As I lay here, propped up in a hospital bed, I realize I so need this book. My two babes – one almost two and one almost eleven weeks – are at home with their poppa and have no idea what’s going on, what an acetabular fracture is, or what “car accident” means. All I know is I have a whole host of people to give this book to — folks who have covered us in grace and help and casseroles. Staring down four more months until I can put weight on a right leg, I feel like *I* should be ordering this one in bulk. Thanks!

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Katie

I just graduated college today and would love to read this and pass it on to a friend.

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Nolo

As a college professor, I would love to be able to share this with some graduating seniors.

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Amanda

I just spent an hour trolling Amazon looking for a new book to read…and then I pop on over to DALS and this comes up! Would love to take this on vacation this upcoming weekend, and give as a hostess gift to my boyfriend’s parents (who I’m meeting for the first time!)

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Taylor

Another book for my summer reading list! I know so many recent grads that I want to recommend it to.

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Gina Enk

I’m a teacher of 70 seniors who are graduating in June 1. I’d love to share this with them! We’ve been watching a graduation speech a week via YouTube as a way to keep them motivated. One of our favorites was the illustrated version of George Saunder’s speech about taking every opportunity to be kind. Lovely!

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Sara

This looks so amazing. I would love to share this with my grandmother who has seen many children and grabdchildren graduate and who was the first college graduate in her family.

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MemeGRL

This book sounds amazing and like the ideal “life transitions” gift I’ve been seeking for several graduates and other life changers!

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Pat

I really like the way George Saunders thinks. Thanks for shining a bright light on his work.

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Kyla

Whether or not I win, I am getting my hands on a copy of this book. So rad that you gave a copy to every graduating senior. What a lovely gesture.

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Linda S.

I know just who I would give it to: my nephew for his bar mitzvah. I would love to read this (great cover, btw).

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Lauren

Sounds great! And I think I know just who to give it to, which is a plus :)

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Caitlin

What a generous contest! I love that quote and am thankful you came back on to tell us about this book. A few copies are definitely going to be purchased.

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Tonpia

I just read something about this speech yesterday. Now your recommendation has solidified my need to read this, regardless of giveaway. Also, a nice alternative to Dr. Suess for the graduating crowd.

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Angela

This is great! I have Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech-turned-book, and it’s one of my favorite inspiring reads :)

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Janet

My 4th grader’s 8th grade buddy when he was in kindergarten graduates from high school this weekend, and my assistant graduates from jaw school. 2 perfect recipients!

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Charlotte

I love this giveaway and the quotes…I’ve loved everything I’ve read about this book so far.

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Sue

Love all of your recommendations, so I will be reading this even if I do not get the free copies! Fingers crossed.

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Anya

Such a lovely message, and we have a grad to give one to. Fingers crossed!

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JP

Perfect graduation present for my Australian cousin who has just graduated in Washington – smart cookie!

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Andrea

Very cool! My husband teaches hs English, so I plan to seek this book out one way or another!

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Chrissy

I will be giving this book as gifts this graduation season. An extra copy wouldn’t hurt ;)

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Marian

This sounds like a book that I needed to receive when I graduated from college. Can’t wait to read!

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Tina Rowe

beautiful would love to win this and I know just who to give it to!!

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Eileen

I need a little uplifting myself & would love to pay it forward to someone else.

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Shari

We’ve got four boys, and one graduated from college this past weekend and our youngest is moving up from elementary school at the end of June. I would love to give these to them!

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Evelyn

I work with students & am always trying to do my best to inspire them. As a mother of teenagers, too, I agree completely that my life’s work is to nudge young people along to kindness & good work. Thanks for the chance to win these copies!

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Catherine

This has been on my to-read list since it’s publication! Love Saunders!

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Leslie

I’ve wanted to get my paws on this book since I heard about it on NPR a few weeks ago. Such a nice giveaway!

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Jill

My niece is the first in her immediate family to graduate from college and could greatly benefit from reading this book- and I’m sure I would love it to!
Thanks for the opportunity to be selected!

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Jenifer Brunner

I would love to give this book to my niece who is grafusting next month from high school, she has not yet figured out what she truly wants to do in life but will in the future. I look forward to sharing
Mr. Saunders words of wisdom with her and the other future graduates in my life.

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Laura Gever

My daughter is about to graduate from high school. I love that George Saunders has put kindness, or being loving, into the public conversation in such a big way. I see in my daughter and her friends that they are ready for this conversation and they want to embrace this, but they are terrified of the “real world” and how will they make a living. I hope every one of them reads this and that it bolsters them up when they falter.

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Alison

Thank you for solving my graduation gift problem (whether I win these copies or not)! I have two truly special young graduates for whom an ITunes gift card just isn’t good enough.

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Colleen

This book (which i checked out of the library and loved- sorry Random House, hope that doesn’t disqualify me) reminds me of that wonderful poem by Naomi shahib NYE:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

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CathyT

I have a sigh school graduate that I would love to share the book with. Thanks!

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Simone

I just graduated from college and am headed to grad school. Would love to take this book with me (and share it with my best friend who also just graduated)!

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LRW

What a lovely sentiment and a lovely giveaway to match. Thanks for the opportunity!

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Amberly T

I’ve heard of the speech but didn’t know that it’s in book form! I’d love to read it and this is just perfect timing. Thanks for sharing!

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Meg

What a gorgeous book! I’ve got quite a few graduates this year (brother, cousins, students), but there’s no way I’d be able to resist keeping one of those copies for myself. You’re so sweet to think of this double-gift giveaway!

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Katie

Sounds lovely! I would give a copy to my little sister when she graduates college.

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Katie R

I just heard about this book last week — sounds like a great gift for someone who could use a bit of perspective in their lives.

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Chris Love

On the list to read and to gift. Thanks for the heads up as I was indeed in the group not familiar with this speech/book.

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Jeanne

I know just the graduate to share the book with if I win. Thanks for the giveaway!

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coral

Awesome, I loved that speech and I happen to know a grad I would give this to!

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Nicola

Lovely. I have two gorgeous cousins graduating this year, so I would give them both away!

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Anne Weber-Falk

I am looking forward to reading this book and hearing my childrens thoughts after they read the book also. Thank you.

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Bette

Kindness and a grateful heart — two must-haves in this walk of life! I would so love to read and share this book:)

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Jules

What a great idea! Thank you for sharing. I had just added this book to my ‘to read’ list & was going to pick it up. I love that you are sharing this with us & all of the graduating seniors. It really means a lot that you are doing that. Thank you.

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Liz Lightfoot

I, too, regret the missed kindnesses in my life. Even more, the moments in which I was flat out unkind. Will I ever forgive myself? Probably not, but I do strive to be better

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Marilyn

I have four nieces and nephews graduating from college this spring, and now I know what to give them. Thanks!

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Nancy C

Thank you for the great gift suggestion. I would love to be on the receiving end. I’m sure the seniors that were gifted are grateful for the inspirational work.

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Courtney P

Looks great! There are 2 graduates in my family this year (1 college and 1 high school). Would love to share with them!

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Amy

I read the speech online originally, it was great and I would love a copy to pass on to my niece who is graduating from Univ. of Chicago

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Dr Amy

I read the speech online originally, it was great and I would love a copy to pass on to my niece who is graduating from Univ. of Chicago

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Beth

I would love to give this to my niece who is graduating from high school this year.

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Kay Lynn

My husband is a high-school teacher and would share this with his students. Great idea.

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Nicole

I read Tenth of December based on your recommendation and immediately gifted it to a friend. It was so powerful and amazing and, and, and…… Can’t wait to read this book!

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candice

i would love to win this, but i may have to buy a copy today! thanks for sharing this.

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Bea

Oh my! What an incredibly wonderful and generous gift to the graduating seniors in your town. I wish you had lived in my town when I graduated so many, many years ago! And to think I came to your website just to find the summer cobbler recipe for my family BBQ….

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Anne

My husband and I are both teachers. What a great book to share with our students.

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Susan

I’d love this both my niece and our favorite babysitter are graduating. If I don’t win I may need to just go but this for both. Thx!

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Sara

I’m going to graduate (with a PhD) in the next 6 months and would love to read this!

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Adriana

This book sounds amazing. Can’t wait to read it whether I win or not.

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Liesel

Graduation speeches are always intriguing to me and I can think of several young people I would like to gift with this book. Thank you for such a neat and creative giveaway! Lack of kindness will haunt you forever… I still regret not being kind to a fellow classmate who was being bullied in fourth grade (and this was over 40 years ago!).

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Aly S

There’s a copy of that book waiting for me at my library. I’d happily take my own copy (and one to share) instead!

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laura

Oh please oh please oh please. I have had the worst day and I would love to share this with a friend who has been helping me through it all

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Silvia

Such a great gift! I know that from now on this will be my go to gift for any graduate!

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angela

You all tipped me off to to George Sanders, and you have my eternal thanks for that.

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Rachel

Joyce Carol Oates spoke briefly at my commencement this past week and quoted Henry James–”Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

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Kathleen

Would LOVE to give this to my son who is graduating High School in June!

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Claire

I love commencement speech season. Every year there are great speeches like this one and it seems like more and more people are really stopping to listen. And maybe think. Thanks for sharing this wonderful one.

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Donna Benson

I am so guilty of this. I need to throw more kindness around. especially to my husband. he would love it if I would win. and so would I. thanks for the opportunity. really. thank you. and George.

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Amelia Cesak

What a great idea for any stage of life! A new job, a new baby, a new marriage. Would love to have this to hand out to all my friends.

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Elizabeth

Sounds like a great book, not just for graduates but for adults like me who could use some fine tuning!

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Irene Linares

Very thoughtful, thank you for sharing the book with us. Would love to spend quality time reading it.

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Rony

Would love to give a copy to my wonderful student aide, Marc, who is graduating in 12 days.

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Elsa

I love George Saunders’ fiction, but I haven’t yet read this. I’d love a chance to read and share it.

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Mary

I have a hs graduation invite on my desk and have been trying to think of a good gift. thanks!

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MB Manion Morell

If you woke up in the middle of the night worried that I (and thousands like me) hadn’t read this book… I can’t wait to read it. I am currently feeling this way about Letters of Note… an amazing compilation of letters… I suspect you’ve found this one? I am planning to give copies to as many friends as I can…

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Nina

We just celebrated my oldest nephews graduation from college on Saturday after all thirteen of us, from the 9 year old little brother to our 85 year old parents trekked to Connecticut the weekend before to attend the ceremony. We all had a hand in getting him there, directly or indirectly. It takes a “village” or in his case a close-knit family. Obviously I am feeling sentimental. Thanks for the giveaway!

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Cindy

Would love to share this with my daughter an her friends who are graduating this year!

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Liz

thank you for sharing this. just looked up the speech on nytimes and think it is a great read.

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Erin

I had heard about the speech — but did not know it had been published as a book (thanks, Andy! — and) thanks DALS!!

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Jess

Perfect for a recent graduate in my life who seems to be floundering a bit!

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Caroline

This book has struck a deep chord with me as a parent. For preschool and kindergarten, we enrolled our two girls in a montessori program where the practice of kindness was encouraged with every daily lesson. They are now in third and sixth grade in a public school and my heart aches for those days where kindness was ever present in their school days. I would love to read this to them and get back to their roots.

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Lisa De

My oldest daughter is graduating in 2 weeks to become a journalism/ public relations major. This book is perfect for her. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

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Laura Z.

Where was this give away a few days ago? My husband just graduated with his MBA this weekend! How fitting…

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kristin

this book looks great! Would love to give it to our niece who is graduating!

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larockwell

i am posting not because i want this book, but because i think that, perhaps, i just might need it. :) as a “recent” graduate who has spent the past few years wandering and doing the best not to feel lost, this could be just the thing i need to give me that extra boost to make things happen for real. i also find nothing more satisfying than handing someone you care for a book that you love and hoping that they find something beautiful on those pages too. what a wonderful giveaway idea! :)

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ginger marks

Heard about the speech and would be honored to read this book by Mr. Saunders.

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Tanvi Sinha

I want to begin by saying that you have a fantastic blog. I came across it a couple of months ago and have been following it regularly and I am finally delurking!
For this giveaway: The paragraph you stated from George Saunders speech struck a chord and made me empathic to exactly what my parents feel at each of my achievements, no matter how big or small. It also prompted me to go and read his complete speech which was funny and inspiring. I have personally experienced the changes that can be brought about by simply being kind, empathic and loving and that have made me a much happier person. For someone who can be relatively cynical, it is ironical that I enjoy reading and being inspired by graduation speeches every year. Both my brother and I graduate this fall, him with a Bachelors in Engineering and me with a PhD in Biology and this book would definitely teach us to be more thankful and cherish all that we have. (In addition, to the very expensive camera that I already received as a pre-graduation gift:)).

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Sarah

I’ve heard amazing things about his speech. I happen to be giving a commencement speech myself this season (to my high school), and I could use all the help and reference material I can get! I look forward to reading it, whether I win copies or not.

Thank you for all your work!

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Heather L

I have not heard of this book until today’s posting. I am very intrigue!

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Becky

This looks great, thanks both for the giveaway chance and just for bringing this back to my attention.

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Emily Woodford

Fantastic idea! Would love to give this to my friends who just graduated college. Love it!

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Michelle

My daughter graduates in one week and will be heading off to college in the fall. This looks like a great book for her. Thank you so much for the book suggestion/giveaway.

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molly

Hi Jenny! Thank you for this post!! Our oldest niece is graduating from high school in a couple weeks and I now know the perfect gift for her! I’d been agonizing over it :) I fell in love with commencement speeches turned books back with Anna Quinlan, but I somehow missed hearing about this one! Thank you for the great giveaway opportunity xoxo

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Heather H.

I haven’t read the book, but love your quotes from it! Will need to check it out. Both my darling daughters are graduating this month, one from high school and one from college, and of course we know soooo many others celebrating graduations now.

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Laurie C.

What a great gift idea ! I love the quotes you shared, especially the message to grads about why their parents are so happy with their children achieving this milestone. Thanks !

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Jenny

I want to read this book for myself first of all. It is so true once you have kids you want that all for them and you become secondary. My oldest is finishing 5th grade and moving on. She already talks of hs and college. I would love to read this with her. I think reading books with my kids is one of the most powerful and meaningful things we do together. Thanks for your blog! Oh and my kids check out your daughter’s blog all the time!

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Michele

We’ve attended two graduations and have two more to go in the upcoming weeks. Would love to gift this book to someone I love. Thanks!

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KateS

I would love a copy of the book and I have the perfect friend to share the extra copy with! Thank you.

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Lindsay

Oh please oh please, I would LOVE to have this and give one away to a dear graduating friend!

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michelle

Looks like an awesome book! Would love to read and share it as well!

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Allison

After helping my husband work on his speech for the graduation ceremony at his high school alma matter, I would love to read this speech! We have some special friends graduating this year so it would be lovely to share this book with them. Thanks!

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jenn in GA

this book sounds like something i’d like my family to read this summer. we have a son who has just finished his first year of college, and i don’t want to wait until he graduates again to have the opportunity to engage him about Sanders’ worldview/philosophy.

thanks for the chance to win. whenever you wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night, there’s a purpose for it. :-)

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Clarissa

graduation speeches! one of my new favorite genres. Would love a copy of this one.

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Susie

I’m graduating college in just a few short weeks and this would make the most amazing gift for my two closest friends!

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gayle p.

What a great thought – and i just read this – it’s 5:09 did i miss the cutoff?

I’ll search this book out – my son is graduating high school in june – just the thing to read. Thanks.

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Jen

My daughter graduated this year, and I am still looking for good words of wisdom for her. I would love this book!

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Cay

Tenth of December is a wonderful book (it’s our book club read this month!), and I had heard this speech online awhile ago when it went viral (yay!). Would love to have a copy of this book to give away to my cousin who has finally made it all the way to college graduation at the ripe old age of 25.

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Megan Simpson

I have several friends who I would like to share this message with!

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