next graduation speech

David Sedaris

Author and Humorist
Oberlin College Commencement Address, 2018


  Choose one thing to be terribly, terribly offended by, this as opposed to the dozens or possibly hundreds that many of you are currently juggling.


Full transcript available Commencement Address Oberlin College.


So there goes that advice. Here, though, are a few things I can tell you:

One. When it comes to scented candles you really need to watch it. There are basically only two brands worth having Trudon or Dyptyque. ‘I can’t afford that!’ you’re probably thinking, not with this $120,000 debt for my degree in dance history. To this I say, “Fine. You’ll just have to go without scented candles until you can afford Dyptique or Trudon, or until someone gives them to you.”

Two. Choose one thing to be terribly, terribly offended by, this as opposed to the dozens or possibly hundreds that many of you are currently juggling.

Three. Stand up for what you believe in, as long as I believe in the same thing. Those of you who’d like to ban assault rifles, I am behind you 100 percent. Take the front lines, give it your all, and don’t back down until you win. Do not, however petition to have a Balthus painting removed from the Met because you can see the subject’s underpants. The goal is to have less in common with the Taliban, not more.

Four. Be yourself. Unless yourself is an asshole. How will I know if I’m an asshole? you’re probably wondering. Well, pay attention. Do people avoid you? Every time you park the car or do your laundry do you wind up engaged in some sort of conflict?


Five. Always have a few jokes up your sleeve. They come in handy at casual get-togethers and probably don’t hurt at job interviews either, depending on what position you’re applying for. Here’s one my friend Ronnie recently told me that’s timely, quick, and easy to remember: It’s night, and a cop stops a car a couple of priests are riding in. “I’m looking for two child molesters,” he tells them. The priests think for a moment. “We’ll do it,” they say.

Six: This last bit of advice is something very few of you are going to take, which is unfortunate as it’s just as important as what I told you about scented candles. And it’s this: write thank you letters. On a practical level it’s just common sense. People like doing things for people who are grateful.


I’ve talked to employers who say that the applicants who send a thank you letter after an interview go right to the top of the pile. When I go on a book tour I write to everyone who interviews me, to every store and driver. You know who else does that? Nobody. It’s not because they’re not grateful, they are, most likely. Rather they just think, Oh people will understand.

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Posted on: 12/25/18



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