"And I started writing"

The graduation season packs a wallop (what an odd word), which is to say announcements and invitations flood the mailbox and we get to gaze upon the precious faces of children we haven't seen since their parents' wedding some 18 to 22 years ago.

No, that's not true. I know most of these kids, and frankly, I'm surprised some of them have made it to the finish line. When I open announcements from students who were once flunking and floundering, my heart swells and I want to shower them with gifts. You did it! I also want to say, You think that was difficult? Wait 'til the bigger pond drowns you in sorrow. But I hold back. Let's keep 'em tender and trusting for just a bit longer.

In 2009, Ellen DeGeneres — comedian and icon — delivered what is now my favorite graduation speech. It's a hilarious message, with heart, and it bears repeating at this commencement season. And take note, her very successful comedy career began with writing:

I was soul-searching . . . I was like, I don't understand, there must be a purpose, and wouldn't it be so convenient if we could pick up the phone and call God, and ask these questions. And I started writing and what poured out of me was an imaginary conversation with God . . . and I finished writing it and I looked at it and I said to myself, and I hadn't even been doing stand-up, ever, there was no club in town. I said, "I'm gonna do this on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" — at the time he was the king — "and I'm gonna be the first woman in the history of the show to be called over to sit down." And several years later, I was the first woman in the history of the show, and only woman in the history of the show to sit down, because of that phone conversation with God that I wrote.

— Ellen DeGeneres
commencement speech at Tulane University, 2009