I've attended a lot of graduations over the years and heard many bad commencement speeches. Most are forgettable. Some were memorably bad.* But few are great.
I was lucky enough to have Pat Conroy as my commencement speaker when I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1997. It was a perfect graduation speech. Powerful. Insightful. Heartfelt. Short.
Pat Conroy died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. He was without a doubt a great writer, but to me, he'll always be the person who put an exclamation point on my college experience.
I searched to find a transcript or video of the speech.** It doesn't seem to exist anywhere online, but I did find a passage that was shared in a NY Times article on the commencements of 1997:
I send you out into the world now, Class of 1997, with this admonition. You have graduated from a great university. Now make this university, this state, yourself and your family proud, and if you have a little luck — if you have any luck at all — if you do it right, there is a great possibility you can teach the whole world how to dance.
* George Will was my wife's graduation speaker.
** Looks like the University of South Carolina may have a transcript in Pat Conroy's papers. It just doesn't appear to be online, yet.