As you graduate, can you ask yourselves to live as if you had 11 days left? I don’t mean blow everything off and party all the time — although I’ve already said tonight is an exception. I mean live with the understanding of how precious every day would be. Because that’s how precious every day actually is.
A few years ago, my mom had to have her hip replaced. Before that, she walked without pain. But as her hip disintegrated, every step she took was painful. Today, years after the operation, she is walking without pain but she is grateful for those steps — something that never would have even occurred to her before.
I stand here today, a year after the very worst day of my life – the worst day – the worst day I can imagine – and two things are true. I have a huge reservoir of sadness, it is with me always, it is right here where I can touch it. I never knew I could cry so often, or so much.
But for the first time I am grateful for each breathe in and out. I am grateful for the gift of life itself. I used to celebrate my birthday every five years and my friends’ birthdays sometimes. Now I celebrate always. I used to go to bed every night worrying about all the things I did wrong that day — and trust me the list was long. Now I go to bed trying to focus on that day’s moments of joy.
It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude — gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, and the laughter of my children. My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude, not just on the easy days, like today, but on the hard days, when you will really need it.
There are so many moments of joy ahead of you. The trip you always wanted to take. A first kiss with someone you really like. Finding a job you believe in. Beating Stanford. Go Bears! All of these things will happen to you. Enjoy each and every one.
I hope that you live your life, each precious day of it, with joy and meaning. I hope that you walk without pain, and you are grateful for each step.
And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It’s a muscle, you can build it up, and then draw on it when you need it. And in that process you figure out who you really are and you just might become the very best version of yourself.
Class of 2016, as you leave Berkeley, build resilience. Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have deep within you the ability to get through anything. And I mean anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.
Build resilient organizations. If anyone can do it, you can, because Berkeley is filled with people who want to make the world a better place. Never stop working to do so, whether it’s a boardroom that’s not representative or a campus that’s unsafe. Speak up, especially at institutions like this, that you hold so dear. My favorite poster at work reads, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” When you see things that are broken, and you will see things that are broken, go fix them.
Build resilient communities. We find our humanity — our will to live and our ability to love — in our relationships with each other. Be there for your family and friends. And I mean in person. Not just in a message with a heart emoji.
Lift each other up, help each other kick the shit out of option B — and celebrate every moment of joy. Go Bears!