Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Must be that time of the year

Courtesy of Jill at Feministe (I think), this commencement speech given by Samantha Power. My favorite bit:

Fourth, find friends who have your back. Last weekend I attended a conference in honor of a Nobel Prize winning Princeton psychologist named Danny Kahneman. Kahneman is a remarkable scholar who has done groundbreaking experiments which showed the ways in which humans are not as rational as had long been assumed. At the conference, which celebrated his retirement, lawyers, economists, and psychologists got up to present work that had been galvanized or influenced by his theories. The day was a tour de force, a monument to the kind of impact one man and his ideas can have on the world. At the end of the day Kahneman was asked what he was most likely to be remembered for. The audience hushed in anticipation. Here Kahneman would elevate one of his many theories above the rest. Posterity would record which experimental research the great Kahneman himself thought most landmark. "The one thing that I'm sure of," he said, "is that I'll be forgotten." But he was next asked the source of his nearly unrivalled professional success. Again the scholars in the room waited expectantly. This time, he gave them a response they could take home, answering, "my choice of friends."

The beauty of this is that, while much in this life is beyond our control, all of us hold the power to choose our friends. We can each be a Nobel prize winner at friendship. None of us are perfect friends always, but one way to think about friendship is in terms of carefulness. Be careful with those you love. And surround yourself with people who are careful with you. A good friend of mine devised a rather taxing standard for love and friendship - and a grim one too - "who would you want to become a refugee with?" If your neighborhood were hit by Hurricane Katrina, or Cyclone Nargis, who would have your back? Look around you today. Your parents have your back, your siblings have your back, your closest friends have your back. Keep it that way. And be sure they know you have theirs.


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