John Legend’s UPenn Commencement is Beautiful & On Point
John Legend just gave the most cohesive speech on life, love, and true success—to live a life full of love: to love yourself, love what you do, love the people around you, and love humankind as a whole. Because when you do all of that, you can truly change the world. When you love yourself, you respect yourself and allow yourself to live a happy and beautiful life, a life that you deserve. When you love what you do, you allow passion and joy to drive your work ethic, which is the best motivation of all. When you love the people around you, you build strong interpersonal relationships that raise the quality of your life. And when you love humankind as a whole, you fight for justice and give back in whatever way you can, making a positive impact that betters our world. All of these kinds of love are significant parts to the whole: a purposeful and meaningful life. It's such a beautiful and true message, and I admire and respect John Legend for sharing it so eloquently. Below are my favorite snippets from his speech.
“We love to create, and at no point in our creative process do we stress about what will sell or what's already popular. We think about making something beautiful, something special, something we can be proud of. We truly do this because we love it. We put all of ourselves into it.
And it turns out that love requires that level of commitment from you. Half-doing it is not doing it right. You have to go all in. And yes, your personal relationships require that too.
… years from now, when you look back on your time here on earth, your life and your happiness will be way more defined by the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. You'll get much more joy out of depth, not breadth. It's about finding and keeping the best relationships possible with the people around you. It's about immersing yourself in your friendships and your family. It's about being there for the people you care about, and knowing that they'll be there for you.
… Now, I've already talked about the power of love in your work and your personal lives. But I also want to talk about how love changes the world. There are 7 billion other people out there. 7 billion strangers. I want you to consider what it means to love them too. What does it mean to love people we don't know, to see the value in every single person's life?
Think about that. It's a pretty radical notion. It means your daughter or son, your neighbor's daughter or son and the daughters and sons of people who live thousands of miles away, all deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It means we let go of fear and see each other's humanity. It means we don't see Trayvon Martin as a walking stereotype, a weaponized human. We see him as a boy who deserves the chance to grow into a man, even if he makes boyish mistakes along the way. It means American lives don't count more than Iraqi lives. It means we see a young Palestinian kid not as a future security threat or demographic challenge, but as a future father, mother and lover. It means that the nearly 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria aren't just their problem. They're “our” girls too. It's actually quite a challenge to love humankind in this way.
Professor Cornel West gives us a word for what this kind of love looks like in public. That word is justice.
If you're committed to loving in public, it requires you opening your eyes to injustice, to see the world through the eyes of another. This is not a passive activity. You have to read. You have to travel to other neighborhoods, other parts of the world. You may have to get your hands dirty. You have to allow people to love you, and you have to love them back.
…Even though we're made to love, we're often afraid to love. We're afraid of being hurt deeply. Afraid of feeling the pain I went through when my parents divorced. But you're never going to really love something or someone unless you put those fears aside. Don't hold back. Being in love means being ready to give freely and openly, and being ready to risk something. Risking pain and disappointment, conquering your fears, and becoming anew.
…So love your self, love your work, love the people around you. Dare to love those who are different from you, no matter where they're from, what they look like, and who they love. Pursue this life of love with focus and passion and ambition and courage. Give it your all. And that will be your path to true success.”
The final bit about loving the other 7 billion people in the world really hit a chord with me because I can relate so much. I have such a big heart for the world and I feel like there aren't enough people who love beyond their circle of close friends and family. It's not wrong—you have to love yourself first, and then the closest people around you. But I just hope that more people learn to reach outside of that and love humankind as a whole—to care about real social issues and that which is happening out in the world, even if it lies outside of their sphere of proximity. Just food for thought.
Hope this has inspired you to take the risk and choose love. Because to do so will inspire many more to do the same.
How much do you really know about yourself?
Discover more about yourself and what you want out of life with this free downloadable list of 30 self reflection journaling prompts.