Advice to college grads: 'It's not about you,' 'crisis breeds opportunity'

Published: Tuesday, May 31 2011 12:58 p.m. MDT

It's that time of year when college graduates all over the country are told to go find themselves, carve their own path and pursue happiness. But one columnist for The New York Times wrote a piece Sunday saying maybe that's not what we really want to tell our recent college grads.

David Brooks says the most successful young adults do not look inward but outward, find a problem and then try to solve it. They are making "sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and a calling — yet mostly (hearing) about freedom and autonomy." He also believes instead of happiness, grads should be told to pursue excellence.

"Today's grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they'll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center," Brooks says. "The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It's to lose yourself."

The Atlantic Wire did a story titled the "Best and Worst of Commencement Speakers" on Friday, quoting people like Sara Stadler, of Emory Law School, who told the graduating law students who don't have a job yet lined up that "crisis breeds opportunity… to lead meaningful lives — the kind of lives that you can be proud of later when you look back on it." She goes on to say not to blame others for not having a job, to get over the sense of entitlement many young grads feel.

But some in the law community did not like her advice, calling her speech "the most hypocritical commencement speech ever," according to Above the Law, a site about legal news.

Denzel Washington told the University of Pennsylvania grads this month: "Every graduate here today has the training and talent to succeed, but do you have the guts to fail? If you don't fail, you are not even trying,"

And Tom Hanks gave this advice to Yale graduates: "Your career as human beings and as Americans is to stand on the fulcrum between fear and faith — fear at your back, faith in front of you. Which way will you move? Move forward, move ever forward and tweet out a picture of the results."

At the University of Utah's commencement earlier this month, Mitch Albom, author of "Tuesdays with Morrie" told the graduating class to make time for people. "Then when you die, many many years from now, you won't be 100 percent gone. You will live on."

To see a short recap done by CBS of some advice to graduating college students, click here.

EMAIL: slenz@desnews.com

TWITTER: saralenz

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