I was once sitting there myself, like you do today, and I too listened to adults and their speeches and some of the people seemed to be so disconnected that I always wondered if they still understood the youth. I was so young and they seemed so old, maybe that’s the way you look at me today as well.
I have been asked to give a speech today about the path of life and I cannot do that. There are many paths that one can take and planning life just doesn’t work, it seems the universe always laughs, when we humans start to make plans.
So I decided instead to read you a poem:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann c.1920
For nearly 90 years Ehrmann’s Desiderata has been told and printed. In 1968, Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy recited the poem on an a record and called it “Spock Thoughts”; later singer Les Crane used the Desiderata words in his 1971 hit record, for which he received a Grammy award.
Even Hollywood couldn’t resist and featured Lorne Greene of Bonanza, who read the poem on the Johnny Cash show in the 70’s. You might not remember Mr. Spock or Lorne Greene, but you all know Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean, who has the entire text of the poem tattooed on his back.
The poem seems to be timeless. Desiderata is Latin and it means things that are yearned for.
So I am in good company when I say this poem hangs in my office as well and it always showed me the way how to live and what to become.
May it show you the way as well.
Go out in the world and make your own path~!
You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.