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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Prof.Phil Zimbardo's speech at Stanford Graduation Ceremony


I am delighted to have been chosen by my colleagues in the Stanford Psych Dept. -- the finest in the known universe and beyond-- to be the faculty greeter, on this most auspicious occasion.

We are collectively celebrating first the success of this amazingly talented cohort of students who are receiving their BAs, Masters degrees, and Doctoral degrees, some with honors and distinction to boot.

Next, we welcome their families and friends whose personal support was the constant wind helping to lift their wings so that they could soar to ever new destinations.

Finally, it is Dad's day -- who radiate with boundless joy-- at never having to pay exorbitant tuition fees ever again—

Unless your daughter or son is headed for Med School, Biz school, Engineering, or Professional Psychology School, then you will wish you had passed on to them some dumber genes.

I have promised our Chair to contain my enthusiasm to 12 minutes precisely, but I must allow a few personal digressions before concluding with Dr. Z's prescriptions to our graduates for leading a Perfect Life.

Not only am I also a three-time dad, but also this year for the first time ever I am a first time grand dad to little Philip, thanks to my son Adam, class of 1985, and his wife, Jessie.

So I want to thank in turn both of my grandfathers, for having migrated here from Sicily so that I don't have to give this talk at the University of Palermo.

I have just returned yesterday from visiting their ancestral mountain towns to honor their memory with my educational foundation that provides up to 20 annual college scholarships to deserving HS students -- with support from Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate technology, also a graduate of our psychology department. whose family also emigrated from Sicily.

My maternal grandpa Antonio was a shoemaker, and my namesake paternal grandpa, Philip, was a barber.

My legacy from the one is this remarkable 100-year old shoeshine brush, and from the other this  pair scissors and straight razor. 
(Show all three)

My father was also a barber who, like them, never went to high school.

Had I followed the family tradition I might be shining your shoes or giving shaves and haircuts, instead of being today's distinguished speaker.

EDUCATION was, is, and will always be the key differentiator in a success-filled life.

This was evident to me as a young kid growing up in poverty in New York's South Bronx ghetto where temptations to do the easy, evil thing abounded with negative influence agents willing to pay you to do their bidding.

School was the medium for choosing hard, good things that gave Order and Meaning to existence.

Inspiring teachers dispensed daily gifts of poetry, art, music, math, science, and everyday wisdom on how to live a better life.

Mrs. Newman, Mrs. Bachman, Mrs. Schlecht, Miss Munvus, and Mrs. Gainey, my primary school teachers, all remain vivid images in memory --more than 70 years later for making our little world understandable and valued.

I was hooked, wanted to be like them, and realized that guys could also be teachers when I finally had a male JHS teacher, Mr. Lipman.

For the past fifty years I have been channeling their love of learning to my students at Yale, NYU, Columbia, and especially here at our beloved Stanford. 

It mattered not whether it was a tutorial, seminar, or lecture class to more than a thousand students at a time, I was privileged to be able to share with each student my love for psychology while challenging them to be even better than they could imagine.

Teachers who inspire their students are Everyday Heroes that should be treasured more by our society, as should parents like YOU here today who have sacrificed much for the well-being and success of your in-house student.

I wish I had the time to share personal stories about some of my special students, like athletes Jim Plunkett and John Elway, Chelsea Clinton, or Jim Breyer, Accel Partners, first major investor in Facebook, and supporter of all of Stanford’s overseas programs, and early tech guru, Guy Kawasaki—and so many more—but my time is up, with only a few final minutes left to dispense Dr. Z's prescription of:

Ten paths for your perfect life -- after graduation

1. Never stop being a student -- be filled with curiosity and wonder, ask why, discover how.

2. Make time for family, friends, and fun-- especially when you are really busy doing “stuff.”

3. Let Compassion be your guiding light, but heroic action your daily goal.

4. Trade in familiar habits for novel adventures.

5. Nurture your passions, tolerate all the rest.

6. Violate expectations to liberate yourself from predictability.

7. Take risks, learn from mistakes, try harder, and think wiser next time around.

8. Develop a balanced time perspective -- well grounded in the past, linking to your family and culture, be energized by the power of the present, and motivated to succeed by a hope-filled future.

9. Be the engaging host at life's party, not its reluctantly shy guest.

And finally, 

10. Change the world for the better-- people, situations and systems-- each day in some way, by what you stand for, and the wrongs you are willing to challenge with righteous integrity.

Phil Zimbardo

Visit the "Heroic Imagination" Website

Please also read my other well read articles

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