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Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Each year I make a hobby during graduation season (May/June) of paying attention to college commencement speeches. We’ve covered quite a few here on Mbird over the years. It’s a rhetorical phenomenon that sheds light on philosophies of the world that are either long on law or lame optimism about human potential: Look inside yourself, follow your heart, failure is just a stepping stone to future success. Oh, the places you’ll…

Commencement 2012: Graduating to Humility

Commencement 2012: Graduating to Humility

A piece by Charles Wheelan that appeared in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago has been the go-to status update for the collective Class of 2012, many of who find themselves lamenting their impending commencement exercises. With unemployment still above 8 percent and college graduates leaving their alma maters with an average of $25,000 of loans, it seems as though any commencement address has an uphill battle ahead of it. Normally,…

The Humanity Of God: An Ascension Day Reflection

The Humanity Of God: An Ascension Day Reflection

Commencement season is almost over (there are some college graduations still happening, if you can believe it!). This year I learned of a tradition I didn’t know existed. Apparently a newly elected president’s first commencement address is usually given at Notre Dame. But Donald Trump broke with this convention, recently delivering his first commencement address at Liberty University. In my opinion, it was one of his better public addresses….

Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

1. As far as “theology of the cross” illustrations go, this one is unforgettable. A pastoral care initiative in a prison’s hospice wing, led entirely by fellow inmates, most of whom are convicted murderers serving a life sentence. Suleika Jaouad tells the story in this week’s New York Times Magazine, about the Pastoral Care Service Workers, a cohort of about two dozen inmates who have been trained and tested to provide end-of-life care for the…

No More Winning: Stephen Colbert on Love, Service, and Improv

No More Winning: Stephen Colbert on Love, Service, and Improv

We’ve gotten a lot of mileage over the years from graduation speeches. Perhaps because they tend to be so long on law and short on grace–i.e. full of exhortation rather than comfort–that when they’re good, they really stand out. Among our favorite “anti-commencement addresses” would have to be those by Bill Watterson, JK Rowling, Conan O’Brien, Jonathan Franzen and, of course, David Foster Wallace. With…

J.K. Rowling on the Fringe Benefits of Failure

J.K. Rowling on the Fringe Benefits of Failure

As I was searching the wonderful TED archive of talks the other day, I came across the address that author J.K Rowling gave at Harvard Commencement in 2008. (Aside – the TED site/community is a great resource IMO and very much worth your time). I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books and am only vaguely familiar with Rowling’s personal history as an impoverished single mother who became a mega-star author. But I was blown away by her…

Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

1. This week, The NY Times made the astute observation that the new buzzword, “moment,” reflects something significant about the human condition. You need only glance at headlines to see how the word is being used—as far as media coverage goes, a “moment” is usually something trending, anything that garners fifteen minutes of fame. It could be a celebrity or a musical group; there are election moments and hurricane…

MLK, Bobby Kennedy, and the Monumental Grace of Sleep

MLK, Bobby Kennedy, and the Monumental Grace of Sleep

This wonderful reflection was written by Benjamin Self. I. The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock…and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. — Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle”, 1819 Between 1959 and 1968—the year he was assassinated—Martin…

Jim Carrey and the Terrible Search for Fulfillment

Jim Carrey and the Terrible Search for Fulfillment

Every now and again, I think I’ve got all the plates spinning at once. I’ve done enough, and I can be satisfied. I strut down the grocery aisle like it’s a dance floor, giving nods and high-fives to strangers, like Heart’s “Barracuda” is my cool and easy life’s soundtrack. Then, suddenly, my son pitches a Grade-A Hissy Fit right there in the store because the cereal he wanted five minutes ago is not the cereal he wants now. In the midst of his…

David Foster Wallace Went to Church Constantly?

David Foster Wallace Went to Church Constantly?

The next few months are shaping up to be eventful and exciting ones for devotees of David Foster Wallace. At the end of August the first major biography of Wallace, D.T. Max’s Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, hits the shelves. And then in November, a long-awaited volume of uncollected essays arrives, Both Flesh and Not. Can you say “pre-ordered”?! Well, last week blogger Daniel Silliman posted an eye-catching report on a…

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

As Father’s Day rolls around, so does our Forgiveness Issue (purely coincidental). Here’s a teaser to the Fifth Issue of The Mockingbird–the Opener as well as the Table of Contents. Subscriptions and orders can be placed here. A Cop Out in the Woods It turns out writing about forgiveness is hard. Maybe we don’t experience it very much, maybe we haven’t had the words to describe it when we have experienced it, but it certainly…

A Conference Week Ends: Shame Patient Zero, Moral Bucket Lists, Love & Mercy, and A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

A Conference Week Ends: Shame Patient Zero, Moral Bucket Lists, Love & Mercy, and A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

It’s a conference week here at mbird, so expect a lighter posting schedule for the next week or so while the focus shifts to New York City! Say a prayer for our attendees if you have a moment. In the meantime, here’s an extra-long weekender to hold you over: 1. David Brooks returned to his flirtatious ways last Saturday in the New York Times with his “Moral Bucket List,” a preview of coming attractions for his new book,…