OBERLIN — Humorist and best-selling author David Sedaris gave the Oberlin College class of 2018 some advice as its commencement speaker Monday morning.
The three-time Grammy Award nominee for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album gave advice that was coated in his own brand of tongue-in-cheek humor but had truths within them. One piece of advice was to stand up for what you believe in — as long as it was the same thing Sedaris believed, which he used to advocate for gun control.
Sedaris, who dropped out of Kent State University before graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was presented with an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree. Sedaris told graduates that the first few years after college are what you will remember on your death bed.
“The years after you graduated when you were first living as an adult, everything seemed so possible. Maybe nothing worked out the way you planned, but still you thought it would,” he said.
One of the last bits of advice Sedaris gave was a simple request: Write thank you letters. It’s a small gesture, he admitted, but it’s something that will delight people who make efforts to give you gifts or opportunities.
“I’m not trying to be a guilt monger, I’m trying to help you,” he said. “But who am I? A fairly successful person, one with a Picasso painting and 10 books under his belt who will go home at the end of this day and write the lovely president of Oberlin to thank her for this degree I do not deserve but am so incredibly grateful for.”
Class president Skyler Brooke Davis also spoke at the commencement, telling her fellow graduates that she learned the true meaning of strength while studying at the college.
“Being strong isn’t about keeping a stoic face or stopping yourself from crying,” she said. “It’s allowing yourself moments of sorrow and still being able to get up, even if it’s a long process.”
Davis said she understood this fact after having to mourn the loss of important people in her life while attending college. She lost her grandmother to cancer and friends to suicide, and sometimes thought herself weak for having her emotions stop her from finishing important tasks in college.
Davis congratulated her fellow students for making it to graduation, but also acknowledged some of those journeys ended for students who decided to commit suicide or drop out due to various circumstances.
Also in attendance was Oprah Winfrey, whom students and guests were shocked to see as she silently sat with the rest of the masses in the hot Monday afternoon. The reasons for her being there is unknown at this time.
This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: David Sedaris dropped out of Kent State before graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.