NYU Commencement 2010 took place on Wednesday May 12. Here’s my heartfelt impression: cold, cold, COLD and freaking harsh. It’s May, April showers is over, and flowers should be blooming. And yet, NY was cursed with frigid drizzles and blustery winds at Yankees stadium. Mind you, this is only the second time in 25+ years of NYU Commencement that it rained! It also was not a good idea to wear leggings, white flats, and a tank top inside my purple robes. While I sat through the 2 hours of wetness and windiness, I was practically a human popsicle. I used my violet robes to its fullest potential by curving myself into a shivering ball. I put on the purple cap and ridiculous plastic poncho and just hid myself like a turtle. At first, I had my yellow umbrella up to shield myself from rain, but I think I was pissing people off behind me since I’d be blocking their view.
Besides being blessed with horrendous weather and a very sedentary 2 hours, I was there to celebrate with my friends. My family did not come because of the immense crowds and initially, the shining UV radiation from the smiling sun (but that did not become an issue anyway). I was just glad to enjoy my time sitting with long-time buddies and taking pictures to last into the future. As John Sexton said in his speech, “Bless the rain. You will not dampen our spirit!”
Alec Baldwin managed to show up this time. Four years ago, he suddenly ditched the entering freshman class of 2010 during Freshman Convocation (I believe it was because he was in drug rehab or something). Anyway, we had no speaker that late August afternoon on Gould Plaza and forever was the class irked, until he sort of redeemed himself on Commencement Day. Technically, he had to show up and speak to our class because he was receiving an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, which makes him Dr. Baldwin now. Sound funny? Yes, I had my giggles too. Well, he kept his speech short and choppy, just the way I like it. The one part that I would like to comment about is his emphasis on “commitment.” From a man who did commit to coming out on a torrential day and who did commit to donating millions to the Tisch School of the Arts, I figured I’d pay my respects.
Commitment extends to 1) family & friends, 2) you, and 3) society. First, I do believe it essential to maintain a social circle and family connections. You can always depend on your parents, until the role reversal when you have a steady job and they get old. Remember, according to Confucius teachings, parents have given the child the gift of life and the child is forever bound and indebted to the parents. This is the root of filial piety. You also have siblings and extended family who care as well, unless some rivalry and bad blood ruins that connection. But, you also have friends that can be dependent, loyal, supportive, and understanding. Without friends, who will you be? Will you be lonely or independent? As another friend reflected on this very question, he said he did not need to depend on friends or family, because by himself, he learns to be more independent and introspective. He has come to peace with his inner self. Distance is also an illusion, so it can never sever relationships. As everyone grows up and moves on, the bond should always be present because there’s always a way to stay connected (hmm, Skype, Gmail, cell phones, etc… thank you modern technology).
And this segways nicely into the second concern: You. You have the responsibility to look out for your own well-being, your health, your duties, your lifestyle, and your happiness. You would like to become self-sufficient and successful. You also need to stay healthy and happy well into the future, and let nothing take that away. You take the time to look inside, find yourself, and figure out the best path to bring out those defining attributes.
As one friend quoted,
“For within emptiness, you already have space for change within yourself for growth. It allows you to expand as a person and not confine you to be just a rock on the side of the road, full of dense material and unmoving.”
The third point, commitment to society, is important because you can contribute to the well-being of the greater community. For me, I have extended my compassionate nature to community service projects and hospital volunteer work throughout my undergraduate years. I have met patients who commend my “purpose” in the Emergency Room, devoting free time to circulate around and talk to them. Deep down, I realized my good-nature can go towards patient care in the medical profession. There, I’d like to see my compassionate nature continue to blossum. I like chatting and interacting with people, and what better place to communicate and save lives than in the health care field. As a future physician, I can be a giver of my time and patience, a healer, an educator, and a chatterbox, given I find the right specialty that suits the time I intend to give. This is what I have committed my next decade of training to, commitments that incorporate family, friends, me, and the larger society. I have adopted a healthy diet and lifestyle for myself, that I’d like to share with everyone else. This is where I can be healthy and happy, here in the US or abroad in Asia.
I will leave with a few quotes by Al Einstein as last thoughts:
The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.
I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.