Category Archives: University

Speeches from America’s university commencement season

At this time of year, across the northern hemisphere, graduands are preparing to leave their alma maters and go out into the world as my friends and I did less than a year ago. As tradition dictates, there will be, at nearly all of these ceremonies, a guest who will speak to the graduates and impart advice on what best to do with the lives they are about to embark on. These guests tend to be politicians, notable citizens or community leaders. My favourite ever speech of this kind is the one given by author J.K Rowling to Harvard’s Class of 2008 about the fringe benefits of failure. The remarks given by these speakers, many of which are now filmed and appear in newspapers and on blogs around the world, are an almost endless source of good life advice, not just for young people standing on the brink of adult life but for all people.

This year, in the US, several notable people were invited to speak at various commencement (as they are known in America) events. Here are a few which I thought were worthy of of my readers’ attention.

Aaron Sorkin, one of my favourite media figures, who wrote The West Wing, A Few Good Men and The Social Network spoke to his alma mater, Syracuse University in New York, telling the graduates:

“You’re too good for schadenfreude, you’re too good for gossip and snark, you’re too good for intolerance—and since you’re walking into the middle of a presidential election, it’s worth mentioning that you’re too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy”.

Barack Obama spoke to the graduating class at Barnard College, a private liberal arts women’s college and member of the prestigious Seven Sisters. There, he told the women:

“Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

A commencement speech was also given by First Lady Michelle Obama to the graduating class at Virginia Tech, site of the 2007 massacre – the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history. She spoke of the school’s tradition of service to others being the key factor in their healing process and beseeched the audience to continue to defy those who tried to define them. It was simple and beautiful and carried the best advice of all.


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I’m famous in Aberdeen

“This guy just walked into the library wearing a grey dressing gown. There’s a line, and he crossed it.”

Yeah, that was me.

Thanks to Caitlin, for the screen grab!

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Revision time takes its toll on my friends


I’m 1,500 words away from finishing my last ever piece of university coursework, so until that’s done, it’ll be radio silence.

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I have completed my dissertation.

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Robert Burns and beaut bicycles

The 25th of January is the birthday of the great Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s most famous poets and widely recognised as the nation’s national poet. Burns was a pioneer of poetry written in the Scots language, though he also wrote in English and in a “light” Scottish dialect, which could be understood beyond the Land of the Saltire.

Traditionally, a Burns supper is had on or near the date of his birthday. I’m going to one this weekend with the Aberdeen MedSoc – ceilidh n’ all. In the mean time, having finished my exams, I will now endeavour to dispense of all knowledge recently memorised.

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be o’ care, man?  

…Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.

Also – it’s a strange place to find beauty but some of these fixed-gear bikes are stunning works of art.

Kudos to Erik  for leading me to these!

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Filed under Aberdeen, Culture, Photography, Scotland, University

I’m just dying for somebody to ask the smug question; “And did YOU learn anything at university?”

But that’s a rant for another day. I read this article by Jeremy Clarkson years and years ago. At the time, I was a schoolboy and I wasn’t particularly pushed about anything academia-related. I was one of those unfortunate people who didn’t enjoy school and, as a result,I didn’t see how anyone could enjoy university. At one point, I even made up my mind that I wasn’t going to go.

I did in the end and now, coming to the end of my undergraduate career as I am, I couldn’t be more glad. Looking over Clarkson’s article so many years later makes me realise how lucky I am that I changed my mind.

It was probably the best decision I ever made.

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Filed under Aberdeen, University