John Legend's Commencement Address at UPenn

I generally disdain the Cult of the Celebrity. It frustrates me when the unqualified, unverified, and unquestioned present weak arguments and empty claims that are accepted as facts given from experts. While I also reject the Cult of Expertise, I’d take that one over celebrity.

The Cult of Celebrity & the Cult of Expertise often cross paths during this time of year: graduation time. Colleges across the country are hosting commencement celebrations and inviting speakers of all types to inspire students to go off and change the world. President Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker. John Legend.

John Legend? Yeah, that John Legend.

He addressed the graduating class of UPenn on Monday, the school he graduated from 10 years ago. At first, I saw this as a classic case of the Cult of the Celebrity:

  1. Why exactly is this guy giving this address.
  2. Is he really that interesting/compelling/appropriate?
  3. I bet I’d give a better speech than him

While I will definitely not concede the third point, I was pleasantly surprised with the address he delivered. So much so in fact, that I’d like to share it with all of you.

My key takeaway from the speech was:

Now, I don’t assume that the truth is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of democracy and justice, I believe it is quite rare to find. It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening. It’s about accepting that complex problems require complicated solutions.

Enjoy this, and share it.

One Love. One II.

P.S. Now, back to my hating on the Cult of the Celebrity.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora and am a National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I currently live in Washington, DC with my beautiful wife Ellen. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. Today I work at the crossroads of traditional political organizing and online activism. I speak before diverse audiences on empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation though emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet.

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