Audio (about 4 minutes): Ogg Vorbis (2.5 MB), MP3 (3.1 MB), FLAC (8.6 MB).
This is the address I gave at the fall 2007 commencement ceremony for the Metropolitan State College of Denver on December 16, 2007. I received something called the President's Award so I was asked to give the address. (Here's a page about the ceremony.)
There's a video of the whole ceremony at Metro State's page.
If you're curious, I have the essay I submitted for the President's Award in PDF and TeX source.
When I decided I wanted to go to college almost four years ago, I was not a terribly promising candidate, bad grades and all that. I had the desire; all I needed was for someone to give me a chance. For me, Metro State has meant opportunity. When I wanted an education, Metro State offered me one, and I believe I made the most of it.
I have a bit more to say, but first I wish to recognize certain teachers who have had a singular effect on my education or whose classes I have especially enjoyed. They are (in chronological order, as I met them):
Rich Pozzi, Lindsay Packer, Judith Gurka, Jerry Shultz, Larry Johnson, Bill Emerson, T.J. Worosz, Steve Beaty, Jody Paul, Ray Curran, Louis Talman, and John Kennedy. Thanks are also due to Constance Novicoff and Vince Werner in the School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, who were always helpful and friendly.
Now we are all college-educated. I'm sure many of you have plans for where to go from here. As for me, I confess that I lack a strong vision of the future. I do, however, know that I want my life to matter, and more than that, to matter for good. What a shame to have lived a meaningless life, but how immeasurably worse to have lived for ill! For that reason I ask you who are the creators and inventors of the present and future to consider what good you may do by sharing freely your creations and inventions with the world.
I am a scientist, though a poor one, and I believe in the scientific method. Science is best served when discoveries are shared among scientists and the general public—for we are all scientists—, not jealously guarded for the benefit of a few; even those few that benefit from may be worse off in the long run. You need not give up material comforts to be a good friend to others; I for one make my living writing software that is shared without restrictions.
I am an artist, though a poor one, and I wish to be true to the spirit of an artist. Art, like plants, like animals, like all living things, flourishes only when allowed to grow. Artists know that the creation of a work of art has moral consequences; all art aspires to have an effect. Know then too, ye artists—and we are all artists—, that how you share your work, or don't, has moral consequences also. Chains and barriers are a fitting subject for art, but art itself must not be restrained.
For good or for bad, we are all joint authors of the future. Let us, therefore, work with rather than against each other, that at the end, it may be said, “we did so much good.”