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The Word According to Seuss (Afternoon Commencement Keynote)

  • Date: 12/12/2009
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Location: E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall
  • So, here you are now poised to go out there, into the "real world," as they say; you are ready to go forth, to "commence."  After all, that is what this ceremony is all about - marking your passage from here to there.

    And, in getting from here to there, you hopefully have learned that perspective is important; that you need to get the big picture.

    There is an old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words.  And since this setting is not conducive to visual aids, allow me instead to use a few words to paint a mental picture, and I could think of no better set of words than those written by Theodor Geisel on this the 105th anniversary of his birth. 

    As a successful writer and cartoonist, Geisel forged successful careers in literature and filmmaking, in which he received a Pulitzer, two Emmys and three Oscars. 

    Geisel took a significant interest in education and forged unique and creative ways to foster intellectual growth.

    Most of us know Ted Geisel by his middle name: Seuss...Dr. Seuss. 

    When Ted Geisel died in 1991, his last book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go," was still on the bestseller lists. 

    Indeed, it is a timeless classic that will always be as appropriate for a five-year-old as it is for this college graduating class.

    So to you, the class of 2009, let me congratulate you in the words of Dr. Seuss, specifically in words taken from that classic.  So here it goes:


    Today is your day.

    You're off to Great Places!

    You're off and away!


    You have brains in your head.

    You have feet in your shoes.

    You can steer yourself

    Any direction you choose.

    You're on your own. And you know what you know.

    And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.


    You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.

    About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."

    You're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.


    Out there things can happen

    And frequently do

    To people as brainy

    And footsy as you.


    And when things start to happen,

    Don't worry. Don't stew.

    Just go right along

    You'll start happening too.




    You'll be on your way up!

    You'll be seeing great sights!

    You'll join the high fliers

    Who soar to high heights.


    You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.

    You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.

    Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.

    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.


    Except when you don't.

    Because, sometimes, you won't.


    I'm sorry to say so

    But, sadly, it's true

    That Bang-ups

    And Hang-ups

    Can happen to you.


    And the chances are, then

    That you'll be in a Slump.

    You're not in for much fun.

    Un-slumping yourself

    Is not easily done.


    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.

    Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.

    Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

    How much can you lose? How much can you win?


    And IF you go in, should you turn left or right. . .

    Or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?

    Or go around back and sneak in from behind?

    Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,

    For a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.


    You can get so confused

    That you'll start in to race.

    Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace,
    And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,

    Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

    The Waiting Place. . .


    . . .for people just waiting.

    Waiting for a train to go

    Or a bus to come, or a plane to go

    Or the mail to come, or the rain to go

    Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

    Or waiting around for a Yes or a No

    Everyone is just waiting.


    NO! That's not for you!


    Somehow you'll escape.

    You'll find the bright places.



    There is fun to be done!

    There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.


    I'm afraid that some times

    You'll play lonely games too.

    Games you can't win

    'cause you'll play against you.


    All Alone!

    Whether you like it or not,

    Alone will be something

    You'll be quite a lot.


    But on you will go

    Though the weather be foul.

    On you will go

    Though your enemies prowl.

    On you will go.

    Onward up many

    A frightening creek,


    On and on you will hike.

    And I know you'll hike far

    And face up to your problems

    Whatever they are.


    You'll get mixed up, of course,

    As you already know.

    With many strange birds as you go.


    So be sure when you step,

    Step with care and great tact.

    And remember that Life's

    A Great Balancing Act.

    Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.


    And will you succeed?

    Yes! You will, indeed!

    (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)




    So. . .

    You're off to Great Places!

    Today is your day!

    Your mountain is waiting.

    So. . .get on your way!


    (Oh, the Places You'll Go!, by Dr. Seuss, Random House Trade, January 1990)  


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