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Miserable & Magical: Nipun Mehta Delivers a Graduation Speech for Paradoxical Times

Why are commencement speeches so inspiring? Maybe it’s the idea of commencement, beginning a new life… the entering of adulthood, so much hope and idealism, trust and innocent confidence in our ability to make this world a better place… If you want a refresher of all that yummy deliciousness, I recommend giving this a read…
This is a transcript of a commencement address Nipun Mehta delivered at The Harker School, May 2013. He is the founder of, a nonprofit that works at the intersection of gift-economy, technology and volunteerism. Nipun’s speech last year at University of Pennsylvania’s commencement shares more about his personal journey.

“Service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take.” – Nipun Mehta
[When the student body of an elite private school in Silicon Valley was given the chance to vote on who would give their graduation address this year, they chose a man named Nipun Mehta. An unexpected choice for these teenagers, who belong to what Time magazine called the “Me Me Me Generation”. Nipun’s journey is the antithesis of self-serving. More than a decade ago, he walked away from a lucrative career in high-tech, to explore the connection between inner change and external impact. ServiceSpace, the nonprofit he founded, has now drawn over 450,000 members across the globe. In this electrifying address that garnered a standing ovation, he calls out the paradoxical crisis of disconnection in our hyper-connected world — and offers up three powerful keys that hold the antidote.]
Thank you Jennifer Gargano, Chris Nikoloff and the entire faculty at Harker.  To you, the class of 2013, congratulations!  I’m delighted to be with you on your special day, and it is a particular honor since I know you chose your speaker.
So, graduation day is here and this once-in-a-lifetime milestone moment has arrived.  In the words of Taylor Swift, I can tell how you’re feeling: “happy, free, confused, and lonely, miserable and magical at the same time.”  Who would’ve thought we’d be quoting words of wisdom from Taylor Swift at your commencement. 🙂
Today, I’m here with some good news and bad news.  I’ll give you the good first.
You might be surprised to hear this, but you are about to step out into a world that’s in good shape — in fact the best shape that that it’s ever been in. The average person has never been better fed than today.  Infant mortality has never been lower; on average we’re leading longer, healthier lives. Child labor, illiteracy and unsafe water have ceased to be global norms. Democracy is in, as slavery is disappearing.  People don’t have to work as hard to just survive. A bicycle in 1895 used to cost 260 working hours, today we’ve gotten that number down to 7.2.
So, things are progressing.  But I’m afraid that’s not the full story.   You’ll want to brace yourselves, because this is the bad news part.
This week, Time Magazine’s cover story labeled you guys as the “Me, Me, Me” generation; the week before, NY Times reported that the suicide rate for Gen X went up by 30% in the last decade, and 50% for the boomer generation.  We’ve just learned that atmospheric carbon levels surpassed 400 PPM for the first time in human history.  Our honeybee colonies are collapsing, thereby threatening the future of our food supply.  And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What we’re handing over to you is a world full of inspiring realities coupled with incredibly daunting ones. In other words: miserable and magical isn’t just a pop-song lyric — it’s the paradox that you are inheriting from us.
So, what do you do with that? I’m going to be honest — I don’t really know. 🙂 I do know this, though:
At the core of all of today’s most pressing challenges is one fundamental issue: we have become profoundly disconnected.

To read the rest of this article, continue to the DailyGood.

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