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Commencement 2018

The Act of Becoming

Stanford grads bid farewell to the Farm.

Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

A LITTLE LEVITY: Provost Persis Drell, Brown and Tessier-Lavigne.

By Melinda Sacks

At precisely 9:30 on a blissfully cool morning, the 2018 Wacky Walkers began making their boisterous way into Stanford Stadium. Graduates donned traditional black robes—and pink tutus, penguin suits and red bow ties. Some carried signs saying, “Sleep? In this economy?” and “Seeking beer seed money!” 

Stanford’s 127th Commencement was about letting your light shine, said Sterling K. Brown, ’98, who delivered the commencement address. Brown is the first African-American to win both the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic TV series, for his performance as Randall Pearson in the popular television drama This Is Us. He also co-stars in the movie Hotel Artemis and appears in The Predator and Black Panther.

In his introduction of Brown, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne noted, “A life well lived can take any shape . . . so long as it is purposeful.” He encouraged graduates to write their own stories, as Brown has, and to “let purpose be your North Star.”

Brown reflected on the host of orators, including Supreme Court justices and tech titans, who have preceded him in the speaker role. “People, I’m the dude who takes the words of another dude and makes it seem like he came up with them himself. That’s what I do for a living!”

But quoting Socrates, Plato and Lao-tzu,Brown went on to exhort graduates to stretch themselves and to let their inspired nature lead their way. 

“I had to let go of who I was in order to become who I am,” he said, recalling that when he arrived at Stanford, he’d planned to major in economics and go into business. An acting experience at Stanford changed his mind and the course of his life. It was the desire to illuminate the human condition through acting, he said, that has given his life a sense of purpose.

“Graduates of the Class of 2018,” he prodded them, “don’t worry about anybody else’s light. Don’t try to compare yours to anyone else’s. If you have found that thing, that purpose in life that gives you access to maximum enthusiasm, trust that!”

Melinda Sacks, ’74, is a senior writer for STANFORD.
Class of 2018 Favorite Memories
Commencement - Chain
Photo: Eli George Goodman, ’21

“My favorite memories are of spending time with people here—hanging out at Coupa Café, cooking dinner with roommates, biking with friends down Palm Drive and playing music loud!” 
—Madeleine Chang, ’18

Commencement - Dominoes
Photo: Molly Hernandez/Stanford News Service

“During my Sophomore College course in Alaska, my classmates and I spent four nights at the Hobbit Hole on the Inian Islands, where we learned about sustainable, off-the-grid living. My favorite memory there was when we ate seaweed straight out of the ocean as we circumnavigated the main island by kayak, since the ocean water was so clean.” 
—Christopher Yeh, ’18

Commencement - Grads
Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

“From day one of freshman year to my very last class six years later, there was one tradition that kept me sane: the ballet classes I took nearly every week of nearly every quarter. I’m really going to miss them!”
—Jackie Botts, ’16, MA ’18

Commencement - Dads
Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

“I walked in the door of my dorm room and there was a healthy, slender sunflower sitting neatly on my desk, no note.” 
—Zach Taylor, ’18

Commencement - Pizza
Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

“Last year my track & field teammates and I took a weekend camping trip to Yosemite and hiked from the valley to Clouds Rest. As weary as we were at the top, the view over the valley below still took our breath away, and I felt incredibly lucky to be spending time and witnessing the world with them.” 
—Tai Dinger, ’18

Commencement - Wakanda
Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

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