A ‘commencement reflection’ for earth day from Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, the entrepreneur, environmentalist, journalist and author adressed the graduating class at the University of Portland in May, 2009. His lifelong focus has been sustainability and he has successfully changed the relationship of business to the environment in all of his endeavors.

In his speech he spoke of our relationship to the earth, particularly in these challenging economic times when it would be easy to declare environmental issues an expense item vs. a way to create jobs and generate revenue.

“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”

I encourage you to read the entire text of the speech. It frames the issue of preserving the earth in poetic term with realistic urgency. But his words do not just apply to our environmental challenges. They can be applied to any obstacle you encounter on the way to your dream.

“Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

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