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.