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10 Famous Commencement Speeches

        Culture | Learning

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Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts, 2012
Author Neil Gaiman attends the after party for the premiere of 'Coraline' on Feb. 5, 2009 in Portland, Ore. Darryl James/Getty Images
Author Neil Gaiman attends the after party for the premiere of 'Coraline' on Feb. 5, 2009 in Portland, Ore. Darryl James/Getty Images

"When things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art."

Neil Gaiman, the U.K.-born author of "Coraline" and "American Gods" among other works of literature, didn't go to college, let alone graduate from one. Instead, Gaiman, a self-described "feral child who was raised in libraries," engineered his own education as a writer [source: Gaiman].

Gaiman cautioned graduates that life could -- and would -- go wrong, and therein lay the best experiences.

"A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting message in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love."

He also gave some very practical advice on staying employed:

"People keep working, in a freelance world ... because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine" [source: The University of the Arts].

Life, Gaiman noted, is about making good art, no matter the disappointments -- or successes -- along the way. It turns out his commencement address was good art, too. It was published in book form just one year later [source: The University of the Arts].


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