The Best Commencement Speeches Also Make a Great Graduation Gift

The covers of three published commencement speeches, "Congratulations, By the Way" by George Saunders, "What Now?" by Ann Patchett and "Very Good Lives" by JK Rowling
J.K. Rowling, Ann Patchett and George Saunders offer invaluable advice for graduates.

Graduations happen in June, and so do commencement speeches. Harry Potter’s creator J.K. Rowling spoke to Harvard University’s graduating class of 2008. Her speech, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Imagination, is a magical read. Rowling writes, “human beings can learn and understand without having experienced.” This is what makes empathy and education possible.

Ann Patchett’s What Now?, originally a 2006 commencement speech for Sarah Lawrence College, grew into a book length essay. Graduates and retirees often wonder, “What now?” Patchett points out that the answer is not always straightforward, or easy, but there will be choices, enriched by curiosity.

George Saunders asks the students of Syracuse University “to err in the direction of kindness” in his 2013 commencement speech, Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness, reminding them that kindness can “be hard” to do. These three little books have big messages for everyone.

Request these books any month of the year at your local library or bookstore.

Maureen Millea Smith is a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.