Rick Steves delivered this year’s commencement address at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, exhorting the graduates to “GET OUT!”
He touched on familiar themes, encouraging the students to define their own success and to challenge the powers that be. Steves stated his belief that society uses our innate fear to mute our compassion for others, transforming us into mindless consumers/producers. One way to combat this tendency is to “live your life as a traveler.” “Fear,” Steves said, “is for people who don’t get out much.”
He encouraged the graduates to put our current economic crisis in perspective, reminding them that what we Americans perceive as austerity, most of the world considers abundance. It’s hard to attain that perspective until you travel and stop thinking of the world as divided into “us” and “them”. Steves cited an “ah hah” moment from a childhood vacation:
“I was in a park in Oslo, behind the palace. My parents were showering me with love. Their world revolved around me. They’d do anything to make me happy and help me enjoy a fulfilling life. Then, I looked out over the park. It was speckled — like a Monet painting — with countless other parents…all lavishing love on their children. And it hit me: ‘Wow, those parents love their kids just as much as my parents love me. This planet must be home to billions of equally lovable, equally deserving, equally precious children of God.'”
Now that’s what I consider a valuable souvenir.
The full text of Rick Steves’ commencement address is available on his blog.