Season of Advice for Youth

06/07/2000
Commencements or graduation ceremonies are occasions for joy by aspiring youth and advice by recognized achievers. It could also be an opportunity for self-promoters, fund-raisers and boring lectures. Yet Jodi Wilgoren of The New York Times selected a page-full of worthwhile "advice for graduates on the threshold of the Millennium" (N. Y. Times, May 29).

A summary of points made could be helpful not just for graduates, but for any aspiring professionals.

Bishop Desmond Tutu: Retired Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.

"You know the story of the farmer who in his backyard had chicken, and then he had a little chicken that was a little odd looking… It behaved like a chicken. It was pecking away like other chickens. It didn't know that there was a blue sky overhead and a glorious sunshine until someone who was knowledgeable in these things came along and said to the farmer, 'Hey, that's no chicken. That's an eagle.' And this man took this strange-looking chicken and climbed the mountain and waited until sunrise. And then he turned this strange-looking chicken towards the sun and said, 'Eagle, fly, eagle.' And the strange-looking chicken shook itself, spread out its pinions and lifted off and soared and soared and soared and flew away, away into the distance."

Anita Hill: "Did you maintain a sense of humor, especially about yourself and even, more importantly, about the difficulties life sometimes brings?"

Henry G. Cisneros: "The people who are the most successful are those who had the stamina to stay the course over a long period of time."

George J. Mitchell: "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing, nor good philosophy."

Oprah Winfrey: "What I know for sure? You cannot let other people define your life for you. You are the author of your own life and your job is to align your will with that which is the greater will… You know what real power is? Real power is when you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing the best it can be done. Authentic power."

Andy Rooney: "We need more doctors and fewer medical programs. We need more mechanics and fewer car salesmen. Don't rule out working with your hands. It does not preclude using your head. There's no reason why education should be incompatible with craftsmanship."

John Wallach: "Are we entering an era when you will never really touch or feel another human being? … Will we use this new technology to become closer? Or farther apart?"

Reportedly, the shortest advice was alternatively attributed to Andy Rooney or Woody Allen: "We've given you a reasonable world. Don't blow it."