The following was adapted from a commencement speech delivered to the Independent Concentrators of Brown University at their diploma ceremony on Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Providence, Rhode Island. Miriam Markowitz is deputy literary editor of The Nation.
Miriam Markowitz in The Nation:
Standing here, looking at you today, I am in awe. Not of your accomplishments, which I believe are many, or your character, which I’ve no doubt is stalwart and true, but at the thing I can see with my own eyes: your youth.
Seriously, I’m impressed. Which can only mean one thing: I’m old.
I mean, not that old, just a decade further along than you lot. But at 32, a few centuries ago I’d be middle-aged, or older. Maybe close to dead. Now that 30 is the new 20—or something like that, I don’t know—there’s a lot of confusion these days about whom we consider “adults” and who are “just kids.” So let’s say, for now, that because I am standing at this lectern, having been asked to dispense some words of wisdom about life going forward, that I am an adult. And I am going to do one of the things adults like doing best: I’m going to talk at you.
By that I mean I’m going to tell you a story, and I’m hoping that it won’t be a boring one. It isn’t supposed to be, according to conventional wisdom, because it’s a story about what many adults would say is your favorite subject: yourselves.