I like inspiring speeches. I like to be reminded of good personal values that stand the test of time. The 2014 graduating class of New York University are very fortunate as they got both from Janet Yellen’s speech for their commencement on May 21 at Yankee Stadium.
Yellen is the current chair of the Federal Reserve System of the United States. After starting out as an economist 37 years ago at the Fed, this year Yellen became the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history. No wonder that her advice to the class of 2014 centers around the notion of “grit.”
She maintains that “There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called ‘ability.'” Instead, citing psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, Yellen singles out “grit” along with perseverance and passion as essential qualities for achievement and success.
“If there is a job that you feel passionate about, do what you can to pursue that job; if there is a purpose about which you are passionate, dedicate yourself to that purpose.”
The aptness of the venue was not lost on her. “You won’t succeed all the time,” Yellen said. She pointed out baseball giants Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio failed many times at the bat. “Finding the right path in life, more often than not, involves some missteps.”
Yellen also took the opportunity to praise former Fed chair Ben Bernanke for showing the same values in his push for policies which were widely criticized and certain to destroy his career should he fail.
At a time when various US college students show increasingly undemocratic (read: puerile) behavior by protesting and petitioning against invited speakers for their commencement ceremonies (see here, here, and here), this is a good reminder that as recipients of higher learning we should always be ready to listen respectfully (especially to those with whom we disagree), not eagerly awaiting the next dissenter we can silence.
Click on the image above for a clip of Yellen’s speech. Have a great weekend!