I recommend to you is this: be idealistic.
To the end of your life, do not lose your idealism.
In dentistry, always hold to the highest standards of technical excellence and compassion that is your
legacy from the University of California.
And beyond dentistry, never, ever let anyone talk you out of acting on your most beautiful dreams of what life can be like in your home, in your office and university, in your nation, on your Earth. People will tell you your dreams are impossible, impractical, too idealistic. Don't fall for that. Because, in my experience, what is idealistic is what really works in everyday life, especially in human relationships.
What path in life do I recommend you take? It is The Heroic
Journey -- a life that includes dentistry but moves beyond
dentistry. In the mythology of all cultures worldwide, the
mythological hero is born and learns life skills from parents, teachers and
helpers, as you have. He or she eventually leaves home, as you have.
These women and men go through ordeals and trials. In Native American mythology, it's the Kiva of the Snakes, the Kiva of the Bees, and of the Bears and Fire. You've been through the fire; you've been through dental school and have emerged a wiser, stronger human being, prepared for your chosen profession.
The hero then gets the prize, the boon. In a few minutes, you will be awarded your degrees. You will go into the world and will heal thousands of people. More rewards will come to you: a place to practice or teach, a home, perhaps a family. You will have privilege: time, money, intelligence, creativity, influence.
You have two choices. You can keep your gains for yourself. If
that's not satisfying and you want "more," you can recycle:
another car, another trip, a second degree, office, or house.
In world mythology, this does not lead to fulfillment.
In the world's stories, the hero always makes the "heroic choice" to return home and give the boon, the prize, back to the people.
I hope you cross that threshold. Give back to life your skills, your gifts, your time, your resources and creativity. And go outside of your own home and office to be a champion of our shared future.
In the epoch 1980 film series, Cosmos, Carl Sagan has spent 12 hours describing the miracle of how our fabulous global living system came to us. He then concludes: "We know who speaks for the institutions and the nations. But who speaks for Earth?" I hope you will speak for Earth, for the bigger picture, for a culture of meaning that benefits and respects all -- all the races, nations, religions. And the irreplaceable species, air, water, soil, and energy resources on which posterity depends.
Now I, my wife, Libby, and our children, Eleanor, Adam, and Raychel bless you.
Go, Cal Bears. And when you go out of this place, do choose the Hero's Journey for your life. Make heroic choices. Be idealistic, give yourself to something big, and remember that you can make a great difference. And, working together, we can and we will build the world of our dreams and a culture of meaning.