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'Good Luck Out There, Kids! You Will Need It!'

May 31, 2000

As college students don their caps and gowns in a ritual to signal their transition into the "real world," commencement speakers try to offer up a few pearls of wisdom. Some deliver an unabashed pep talk; others vainly attempt to peer into the future. A few talk about personal experiences and try to divine a life's lesson. Most try to persuade students to cling to their youthful dreams while they get whiplashed by life's hard realities. Here are a few excerpts.


Lynda Obst, movie producer, Pomona College alumna Pomona College, May 14, 2000

Never lose the original obsessions and fascinations you were allowed to cultivate here. Find places and people who make you feel the same intense stimulation and engagement you experienced in the classrooms, in the dorm all-night bull sessions, in your Frary Hall debates on this campus.

The world is not as idyllic as this place. It is infinitely compromised and threatens to wear down your best impulse. Fighting this erosion is the secret to fighting disappointment. It builds character muscle. It gives you the strength and conviction you need to achieve your objectives when the forces of opposition mount against you. It helps you pick your battles and learn when to stop fighting altogether, and just have fun.

I'm not going to tell you that the best is behind you--no matter how poignant my memories of Pomona may be. The best is surely ahead, on the mark where you now commence. It's all about getting there, wherever there might be.

If you believe that success is getting to the top of a particular mountain, all you find when you get there is the possibility of losing what you already had. There's no there there, Gertrude Stein once famously said of L.A. The outcome never appears the way we had planned it, and is always out of your control. The process is the joy, and it is the part most like the joys you have felt here. A great working collaboration--in movies or any creative work--is like a great seminar; on your toes bustling with ideas, not wanting to be the one to say something dumb.

Take pleasure in the process. Stop and appreciate the incredible luck of loving your work.


Gertrude Stein was actually speaking of Oakland, not Los Angeles, when she said "There is no there there."

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