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Speeches: Dartmouth Plays Texas

While we are on the topic of Commencement addresses, let’s compare and contrast Shonda Rhimes ‘91’s speech with Admiral William McRaven’s address at the University of Texas. McRaven has been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. From my perspective 35 years after graduation, I think that the Admiral’s oration contained more pertinent information for graduates and was delivered in a more engaging fashion.

No need to comment on the vocabulary choices of each speaker.

Addendum: a longtime reader writes in from Hanover:

Thanks for posting Admiral McRaven’s succinct remarks at UT-Austin’s Commencement and suggesting readers compare and contrast with Shonda Rhimes’ speech at Dartmouth.

There is no comparison.

The sad part is realizing that Dartmouth College could probably not allow a William McRaven to speak at Commencement. Representing the best of America’s military culture and security involvements, his invitation would be petitioned against, protested and ultimately rescinded — if he did not voluntarily revoke his prior agreement to speak at graduation first. We see this occur with increasing frequency at other schools.

Fortunately for our nation, there are still places where the Admiral McRavens are invited, honored and listened to. As you note, such leaders bring far more hard-won, real-world, constructive wisdom than do edgy celebrities and breezy narcissists — those who embody (and profit from) degrading our entertainment-oriented pop culture.

Addendum: New York Magazine liked Shonda’s speech. The magazine reproduced it completely and embedded the College’s video. Here is writer Lindsey Weber’s introoduction:

Shonda Rhimes gave Dartmouth’s commencement address on Sunday, noting to the sea of students that she was worried that she might “pass out or die or poop my pants” midway. But! She made it — imparting much general wisdom and some added tips on being someone whom many people assume effortlessly “does it all.” (The secret? “You don’t.”)


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