The wisdom of Anne Lamott: about commencement. And forgiving pants.

Via Anne Lamott’s Facebook page:

I gave the undergraduate and interdisciplinary studies commencement address at the University of California at Berkeley ten years ago. A number of people asked for a copy of the speech, and I told them I’d post it on Salon, where it ran:

I am honored and surprised that you asked me to speak today.

This must be a magical day for you. I wouldn’t know. I accidentally forgot to graduate from college. I meant to, 30 years ago, but things got away from me. I did graduate from high school, though — do I get a partial credit for that? Although, unfortunately, my father had forgotten to pay the book bill, so at the graduation ceremony, when I opened the case to see my diploma, it was empty. Except for a ransom note that said, see Mrs. Foley, the bookkeeper, if you ever want to see your diploma alive again.

I went to Goucher College in Maryland for the best possible reasons — to learn — but then I dropped out at 19 for the best possible reasons — to become a writer. Those of you who have read my work know that instead, I accidentally became a Kelly girl for a while. Then, In a dazzling career move, I got hired as a clerk typist in the Nuclear Quality Assurance Department at Bechtel, where I worked typing and sorting triplicate forms. I hate to complain, but it was not very stimulating work. But it paid the bills, so I could write my stories every night when I got home. I worked at Bechtel for six months — but I had nothing to do with the current administration’s shameless war profiteering. I just sorted triplicate forms. You’ve got to believe me.

It was a terrible job, at which I did a terrible job, but it paid $600 a month, which was enough to pay my rent and bills. This is the real fly in the ointment if you are crazy enough to want to be an artist — you have to give up your dreams of swimming pools and fish forks, and take any old job. At 20, I got hired at a magazine as an assistant editor, and I think that was the last real job I’ve ever had.

I bet I’m beginning to make your parents really nervous — here I am sort of bragging about being a dropout, and unemployable, and secretly making a pitch for you to follow your creative dreams, when what they want is for you to do well in your field, make them look good, and maybe also make a tiny fortune.

But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

At some point I finally started getting published, and experiencing a meager knock-kneed standing in the literary world, and I started to get almost everything that many of you graduates are hoping for — except for the money.

I got a lot of things that society had promised would make me whole and fulfilled — all the things that the culture tells you from preschool on will quiet the throbbing anxiety inside you — stature, the respect of colleagues, maybe even a kind of low-grade fame. The culture says these things will save you, as long as you also manage to keep your weight down. But the culture lies.

Slowly, after dozens of rejection slips and failures and false starts and postponed dreams — what Langston Hughes called dreams deferred — I stepped onto the hallowed ground of being a published novelist, and then 15 years later, I even started to make real money.

I’d been wanting to be a successful author my whole life. But when I finally did it, I was like a greyhound catching the mechanical rabbit she’d been chasing all her life — metal, wrapped up in cloth. It wasn’t alive; it had no spirit. It was fake. Fake doesn’t feed anything. Only spirit feeds spirit, in the same way only your own blood type can sustain you. It had nothing that could slake the lifelong thirst I had for a little immediacy, and connection.

So from the wise old pinnacle of my 49 years, I want to tell you that what you’re looking for is already inside you. You’ve heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You can’t buy it, lease it, rent it, date it or apply for it. The best job in the world can’t give it to you. Neither can success, or fame, or financial security — besides which, there ain’t no such thing. J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” and he said, “Just a little bit more.”

So it can be confusing — most of your parents want you to do well, to be successful. They want you to be happy — or at least happy-ish. And they want you to be nicer to them; just a little nicer — is that so much to ask?

They want you to love, and be loved, and to find peace, and to laugh and find meaningful work. But they also — some of them — a few of them — not yours — yours are fine — they also want you to chase the bunny for a while. To get ahead, sock some away, and then find a balance between the greyhound bunny-chase, and savoring your life.

But the thing is that you don’t know if you’re going to live long enough to slow down, relax, and have fun, and discover the truth of your spiritual identity. You may not be destined to live a long life; you may not have 60 more years to discover and claim your own deepest truth — like Breaker Morant said, you have to live every day as if it’s your last, because one of these days, you’re bound to be right.

So I thought it might help if I just went ahead and told you what I think is the truth of your spiritual identity …

Actually, I don’t have a clue.

I do know you are not what you look like, or how much you weigh, or how you did in school, and whether you get to start a job next Monday or not. Spirit isn’t what you do, it’s … well, again, I don’t actually know. They probably taught this junior year at Goucher. But I know that you feel it best when you’re not doing much — when you’re in nature, when you’ve very quiet, or, paradoxically, listening to music.

I know you can feel it and hear it in the music you love, in the bass line, in the harmonies, in the silence between notes; in Chopin and Eminem, Emmylou Harris, Bach, whoever. You can close your eyes and feel the divine spark, concentrated in you, like a little Dr. Seuss firefly. It flickers with aliveness and relief, like an American in a foreign country who suddenly hears someone speaking in English. In the Christian tradition, they say that the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows. And so you pay attention when that Dr. Seuss creature inside you sits up and says, “Yo!”

We can see spirit made visible in people being kind to each other, especially when it’s a really busy person, taking care of a needy annoying person. Or even if it’s terribly important you, stopping to take care of pitiful, pathetic you. In fact, that’s often when we see spirit most brightly.

It’s magic to see spirit largely because it’s so rare. Mostly you see the masks and the holograms that the culture presents as real. You see how you’re doing in the world’s eyes, or your family’s, or — worst of all — yours, or in the eyes of people who are doing better than you — much better than you — or worse. But you are not your bank account, or your ambitiousness. You’re not the cold clay lump with a big belly you leave behind when you die. You’re not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are spirit, you are love, and, while it is increasingly hard to believe during this presidency, you are free. You’re here to love, and be loved, freely. If you find out next week that you are terminally ill — and we’re all terminally ill on this bus — all that will matter is memories of beauty, that people loved you, and you loved them, and that you tried to help the poor and innocent.

So how do we feed and nourish our spirit, and the spirit of others?

First, find a path, and a little light to see by. Every single spiritual tradition says the same three things: 1) Live in the now, as often as you can, a breath here, a moment there. 2) You reap exactly what you sow. 3) You must take care of the poor, or you are so doomed that we can’t help you.

You don’t have to go overseas. There are people right here who are poor in spirit; worried, depressed, dancing as fast as they can, whose kids are sick, or whose retirement savings are gone. There is great loneliness among us, life-threatening loneliness. People have given up on peace, on equality. They’ve even given up on the Democratic Party, which I haven’t, not by a long shot. You do what you can, what good people have always done: You bring thirsty people water; you share your food, you try to help the homeless find shelter, you stand up for the underdog.

Anything that can help you get your sense of humor back feeds the spirit, too. In the Bill Murray army movie “Stripes,” a very tense recruit announces during his platoon’s introductions, “My name is Francis. No one calls me Francis. Anyone calls me Francis, I’ll kill them. And I don’t like to be touched — anyone tries to touch me, I’ll kill them.” And the sergeant responds, “Oh, lighten up, Francis.” So you may need to upgrade your friends. You need to find people who laugh gently at themselves, who remind you gently to lighten up.

Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down. Some of you start jobs Monday; some of you desperately wish you did — some of your parents are asthmatic with anxiety that you don’t. They shared this with me before the ceremony began.

But again, this is not your problem. If your family is hell-bent on you making a name for yourself in the field of, say, molecular cell biology, then maybe when you’re giving them a final tour of campus, you can show them to the admissions office. I doubt very seriously that they could even get into U.C. Berkeley — I talked to a professor who said there is not a chance he could get in these days.

So I would recommend that you all just take a long deep breath, and stop. Just be where your butts are, and breathe. Take some time. You are graduating today. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is trying to shame you into hopping right back up onto the rat exercise wheel.

Rest, but pay attention. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is stealing your freedom, your personal and civil liberties, and then smirking about it. I’m not going to name names. Just send money to the ACLU whenever you can.

But slow down if you can. Better yet, lie down.

In my 20s I devised a school of relaxation that has unfortunately fallen out of favor in the ensuing years — it was called Prone Yoga. You just lie around as much as possible. You could read, listen to music, you could space out, or sleep. But you had to be lying down. Maintaining the prone.

You’ve graduated. You have nothing left to prove, and besides, it’s a fool’s game. If you agree to play, you’ve already lost. It’s Charlie Brown and Lucy, with the football. If you keep getting back on the field, they win. There are so many great things to do right now. Write. Sing. Rest. Eat cherries. Register voters. And — oh my God — I nearly forgot the most important thing: refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me you’ll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you’ve just eaten. The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.

So bless you. You’ve done an amazing thing. And you are loved; you are capable of lives of great joy and meaning. It’s what you are made of. And it’s what you’re for. So take care of yourselves; take care of each other. Thank you.

Hippocratic Oath, circa. 21st Century?

A few weeks ago I got to play violin in this place: Duke Chapel

…because the Duke School of Medicine was having their graduation, and the organizers wanted a string quartet, and I still haven’t learned the art of saying No. Playing in the Duke Chapel was a pretty wicked experience though, so I can’t complain that much.

After the speech by the chosen graduate who characterized each year of med school with a work of literature, and compared choosing specialties to selecting a mate, the newly minted doctors were asked to join the veteran doctors in attendance to recite the Hippocratic Oath. The classic text invoked the witness of the ancient deities–Apollo et. al.–that each shall keep their fealty to the practice of medicine, and to accept due punishment for failure to carry out their duties. The modern version kept mostly to the ancient version, save for editing out the gods. It was kind of moving to see all of the doctors rise to their feet, men and women alike, some who have practiced longer than most of the graduating class has been alive, before our generation of electronic medical records and instantaneous vital monitoring and surgery performed with camera attached to a tube.

And together they said, the art of medicine.

I went in for a routine check-up with my primary care provider, and had to have a prescription filled. I was told that the order has been put in, and I should go to the designated pharmacy (located in the same hospital complex of my primary care provider) to pick it up. So up I go through the intestines of this massive building, getting sort of lost twice on the way, found the pharmacy, took a seat in the waiting area, waited for a while, then decided I should walk up to the counter and get my bearings, finally got to talk to someone, who then promptly directed me to go to a waiting kiosk to take a number. Said kiosk was placed behind a door. Number taken. Cue more waiting. When I was called to be serviced, the personnel informed me that the Rx was in fact not yet in the system, and I would have to wait for it to be ordered, then filled, since the item I was prescribed was not in stock. When I asked about the estimated timeline that the item would be available, and what I can expect for a co-pay, the personnel said that since “[the pharmacy] doesn’t have it, I can’t tell you when it’s going to get here. And I can’t tell you how much it’s going to cost until it gets here.” And when I asked whether I can get the prescription at another pharmacy that might have the item on-site, I was informed that I “need to talk to [my] doctor and see what they say”.

All before 9:30am.

There’s a reason that I dread going to the doctor’s. Not so much because I disregard my health, but I want to avoid the miscommunication and confusion and gigantic inefficiencies of a healthcare system. There’s a person who is supposed to tell you what options you have for tests and treatment, another for the amount of your co-pays and out-of-pocket fees, another for your schedule (and more options!) for medication, another for what to expect for when you go home. And it seems that rarely do people actually talk to you, and even rarer to each other. Even though I have a rudimentary understanding of what questions to ask, I still run into days where no one understands who’s saying what, and my words are put up against that five-to-ten-second window where someone actually has the time to listen.

We learn in school that patient education is the most crucial, because most people don’t know what to ask.

Maybe that’s the reason we don’t see medicine as an art, because we don’t have the time for art. An art requires its pupils to stay focused, to keep learning about it and re-learning about it, and being continuously open to new ideas. We try to understand an art from as many perspectives as possible, because we want to know the totality of an art for the love of knowing, because we are curious. Nowadays medicine is a trade, a war of strategies with the end goal of wringing out the most profit. We discharge ICU patients as soon as possible short of malpractice, because ICU patients cost the hospitals the most money. We prescribe an opiate to treat pain from trauma to return to work, then pop a stimulant to counter the drowsiness brought on by the narcotic. We run people through fancy machines made of giant magnets and run blood samples through gels to see if protein markers show up and run chemicals to drown a tumor and still run into the sentence of inconclusive, so we tell the patients that it’s all in their head. Refer to psychological counseling. And even though we crank out healthcare providers faster than Pepperidge Farm pops out Goldfishes, we have somehow run into the age of providing sick-care.

I know that there’s a wealth of dedicated healthcare professionals who take to heart their art of medicine, whether or not they have MD behind their names. And in the most dismal places we hear about the work of medical professionals who tend to the needs of the needy. And among my peers who are in training to become healthcare providers, I see this drive to do better, not for the sake of renown or prestige, but because we genuinely care about what we are learning, and want to know how to apply what we care about toward those we will care for.

And there’s a looming suspicion that I can at best call inefficiency. Or perhaps, indifference towards wellbeing. We expect doctors to tell us what we want to hear, for hospitals to be hotels, and to fix our problems with a prescription. Then we fight over who’s going to pay for the sick-care, the theoretical silver bullet that should alleviate all of our medical woes, because we’ve made medicine such an expensive trade to pay for, and the common man and woman doesn’t have the means to pay for the ideal of medicine, that grossly inflated trade with the down-payments of monstrous medical tuition, unexplainable procedures, and mysterious operating costs, that has replaced art with profit.

What have we missed? And when did it start?

For an art to exist and thrive you need both the artist and an audience, and both who want to sustain what they value. And perhaps because we’ve stopped viewing ourselves, our wellbeing, our health as something to be cultivated and respected, and we’ve placed the responsibility of living healthily into the hands of others–society, institutions, government–that we’ve lost the appreciation for the art of medicine. And when something loses its internal value, the exoskeleton is scoured for profit. And with ballooning amount of regulations, standards, reviews and performance feedback, it’s hard to keep medicine from becoming a trade. A very costly one, too. A lot of people are not going to the doctor’s because they can’t afford to, and they end up having their health deteriorate even further. There are people who have no other option–save for death or chronic disability–than to see the doctor and fall in the quicksand of bankruptcy from medical bills.

Perhaps we are all to blame for the loss of the art of medicine.

We have just wrapped up finals and now into our two weeks in the clinic. I have had some really slow days, but also some amazing days where I know in my heart of hearts that this is what I am supposed to be doing. There is no shortage of stress, and I tend to fall into the mindset that school is a reward-punishment model, and the end result is the quality of my grades, with the ultimate goal being my pruning into an efficient subunit in the mammoth machinery of healthcare. I have to remind myself that I am learning all of the things for the love of learning, for the love of my art-trade-vocation, and that grades and job security should not be the only goals of my efforts, but more as the outcomes from my striving toward something more, because I want to be part of something that is more than making profits and finding loopholes and wrangling compensation out of the tangle of sick-care business.

As I stand at the conclusion of my first year of PT school I feel excited and weird and surprised: excited for the second year and even more amazing things that we will learn, weird that I still don’t really know anything, and surprised because I somehow retained the majority of my sanity. I know I will not be very excited for 10-plus hours of lecture videos when we come back from our 1-week “summer break” and faceplant into musculoskeletal and neurological patient management courses. And it will be hard to remember that I keep plodding along because I am curious to learn more about the art and science that is the human body. But I will somehow remember, and herein keep my fealty. To this I solemnly swear.

reblogged: The Juilliard School’s 109th Commencement Speech, Joyce DiDonato

Star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gave the 2014 commencement address at Juilliard Friday — and it’s a memorable one, both for her words and by DiDonato’s own example as someone whose own career began under low heat.

Chairman Kovner, President Polisi, most distinguished honorees, dedicated family, friends, faculty, and to EACH of the talented, ambitious, courageous, adventurous Juilliard graduates of the class of 2014 before us here today, thank you!

I stand before you this morning, duly humbled, and in awe of the distinguished and hard-earned accomplishment awarded to each and every single one of you on this unforgettable and long-awaited day of your graduation. Look at you! You are gowned and tassled and you’re ready to take on the world! Through that first nerve-racking audition, all those subsequent sleepless nights, the painstaking preparation for your recitals, the endless hours of reed-making and memorization, the blisters and the tears, and now here you walk side by side with the life-long friendships you have now forged, you are about to be Alumni of the acclaimed Juilliard School! I invite you to breathe that in. You, my friends, are living the dream! I wish I had had the foresight when invited to speak here today, to ask them to break with tradition and print my old biography from when I was your age instead of my current one!A great example of contrasts, it would have shown you that despite my “star turn” as the off-stage lover in Il Tabarro with my ONE, single, SOLITARY line (did I mention it was OFF-STAGE?), and that despite being the only young artist of my class to fail at securing management until the ripe age of 29, and DESPITE my evaluation sheet for the Houston Opera Studio which simply declared me to possess “not much talent” and that despite WAY more rejections and easy dismissals than actual “yeses”, despite ALL of that, I am somehow, miraculously standing before you all today, regaled in an admittedly different kind of designer gown, dispensing tidbits of “wisdom” before a group of artists who – and this is honestly no exaggeration – artists who I never could have been classmates with, because there truly is no way I could have gained admission to your school back in the day. I simply wasn’t ready back then. That is the truth. One never, EVER knows where their journey will lead them. But YOURS has led you here.

There are a few more hard-earned truths – as I have come to know them – that have arisen on my personal odyssey as a singer and at first glance, they may seem like harbingers of bad news, but I invite you to shift your thinking just a bit (or perhaps even radically) – you guys are artists, so thankfully you’re already brilliant at thinking outside the conventional box! I offer these four little observations as tools to perhaps help you as you go forward, enabling you to empower yourselves from the very core of your being, so that when the challenges of this artistic life catapult and hurl themselves directly and unapologetically into your heart and soul – which they will do, repeatedly – you will have some devices at your disposal to return to, to help you find your center again, so that your voice, your art and your SOUL will not be derailed, but you will instead find the strength to make yourself heard, and seen, and FELT. Then you will have the power to transform yourselves, to transform others, and, indeed, to transform the world.

My first observation:

You will never make it. That’s the bad news, but the “shift” I invite you to make is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t believe there is actually an “it”. “It” doesn’t exist for an Artist. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life– is to decide, without apology, to commit to the JOURNEY, and not to the outcome. The outcome will almost always fall short of your expectations, and if you’re chasing that elusive, often deceptive goal, you’re likely in for a very tough road, for there will always be that one note that could have soared more freely, the one line reading that could have been just that much more truthful, that third arabesque which could have been slightly more extended, that one adagio which could have been just a touch more magical. There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover. As an artist, you will never arrive at a fixed destination. THIS is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft and embarking on the path of curiosity and imagination, while being tireless in your pursuit of something greater than yourself.

A second truth:

The work will never end. This may sound dreadfully daunting – especially today when you are finally getting out of here!!!! But what I have found is that when things become overwhelming – which they will, repeatedly ~ whether it’s via unexpected, rapid success or as heart-wrenching, devastating failure ~ the way back to your center is simply to RETURN TO THE WORK. Often times it will be the only thing that makes sense. And it is there where you will find solace and truth. At the keyboard, at the barre, with your bow in hand, articulating your arpeggios ~ always return to your home base and trust that you will find your way again via the music, the pulse, the speech, the rhythm. Be patient, but know that it will always be there for you – even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present as you did when you first discovered the magic of your own artistic world when you were young. Bring that innocent, childlike sense of wonder to your craft, and do whatever you need to find that truth again. It will continually teach you how to be present, how to be alive, and how to let go. Therein lies not only your artistic freedom, but your personal freedom as well!

Perhaps my favorite truth:

It’s not about you. This can be a particularly hard, and humbling lesson to face – and it’s one I’ve had to continue to learn at every stage of my own journey – but this is a freeing and empowering truth. You may not yet realize it, but you haven’t signed up for a life of glory and adulation (although that MAY well come, and I wish with every fiber of my being, that it WILL come in the right form for every single one of you – however, that is not your destination, for glory is always transitory and will surely disappear just as fleetingly and arbitrarily as it arrived.) The truth is, you have signed up for a life of service by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will. You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer ~ but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity.

You, as alumni of the 109th graduating class of The Juilliard School are now servants to the ear that needs quiet solace, and the eye that needs the consolation of beauty, servants to the mind that needs desperate repose or pointed inquiry, to the heart that needs invitation to flight or silent understanding, and to the soul that needs safe landing, or fearless, relentless enlightenment. You are a servant to the sick one who needs healing through the beauty and peace of the symphony you will compose through blood-shot eyes and sleepless nights. You are an attendant to the lost one who needs saving through the comforting, probing words you will conjure up from the ether, as well as from your own heroic moments of strife and triumph. You are a steward to the closed and blocked one who needs to feel that vital, electric, joyful pulse of life that eludes them as they witness you stop time as you pirouette and jettè across the stage on your tired legs and bleeding toes. You are a vessel to the angry and confused one who needs a protected place to release their rage as they watch your eyes on the screen silently weep in pain as you relive your own private hell. You are a servant to the eager, naïve, optimistic ones who will come behind you with wide eyes and wild dreams, reminding you of yourself, as you teach and shape and mold them, even though you may be plagued with haunting doubts yourself, just as your teachers likely were – and you will reach out to them and generously invite them to soar and thrive, because we are called to share this thing called Art.

You are also serving one other person: yourself. You are serving the relentless, passionate, fevered force within you that longs to grow and expand and feel and connect and create; that part of you that craves a way to express raw elation and passion, and to make manifest hard-core blissful rapture and – PLEASE, I beg of you, never forget this – FUN! Don’t ever abandon that intoxicating sense of FUN in your ART. Thought that, you are serving your truth. My hope for you is that you will let that truth guide you in every moment of your journey. If you can find that, you have everything. That’s why “making it” is, in the end, utterly insignificant. LIVING it, BREATHING it, SERVING it … that’s where your joy will lie.

I want to share with you a quick email from a soldier on the front lines of our Arts: an elementary/middle school teacher from Salt Lake City, Ms. Audrey Hill, who is fighting the great fight! She brought her students to the recent HD telecast of “La Cenerentola”, and wrote the following note to me:

“One of my boys … a 5th grader… wrote in his review this morning that one of his favorite parts (besides the spaghetti food-fight scene) was where at the end you were singing about getting revenge, and how he really liked that your revenge was going to be forgiveness.   This boy was new to our school this year, has a beautiful singing voice, and has been teased a lot. I have seen him getting more and more angry as the year was coming to a close and today it seemed like all that had disappeared.  It was very moving for me to experience.”

* That’s exactly who you are serving as you now go out into the world. How lucky are you?!??!

Ah, so OK, I lied … I think this may be my favorite truth:

The world needs you. Now, the world may not exactly realize it, but wow, does it need you. It is yearning, starving, dying for you and your healing offer of service through your Art. We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless that, in our fear, we stop contributing that which is unique to us: that distinct, rare, individual quality which the world is desperately crying out for and eagerly awaiting. We need you to remind us what unbridled, unfiltered, childlike exuberance feels like, so we remember, without apology or disclaimer, to laugh, to play, to FLY and to stop taking EVERYTHING so damn seriously. We need you to remind us what empathy is by taking us deep into the hearts of those who are, God forbid, different than us – so that we can recapture the hope of not only living in peace with each other, but THRIVING together in a vibrant way where each of us grows in wonder and joy. We need you to make us feel an integral PART of a shared existence through the communal, universal, forgiving language of music, of dance, of poetry and Art – so that we never lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together and that we are all deserving of a life that overflows with immense possibility, improbable beauty and relentless truth.

What an honor it is to share in this day with you – savor every single moment of it – and then fly out of this building, armed with the knowledge that YOU make a difference, that your art is NECESSARY, and that the world is eagerly awaiting to hear what YOU have to say. Go on, make us laugh, cry, dance, FEEL, unite, and believe in the incredible power of humanity to overcome anything!

Mission II, Catherine Nelson, Courtesy of NPR.org