The Most Inspirational Commencement Speech Ever: Nipun Mehta Addresses the “Me, Me, Me” Generation.

Via on May 27, 2013
Source: Time Magazine
Source: Time Magazine

“Service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take.” ~  Nipun Mehta

I saw this magazine cover at the grocery store just the other day—I was there buying a card for my own son’s high school graduation scheduled for the end of this week.

I was offended, quite so, actually, by Time Magazine’s bold assertion—that this generation, was the “Me Generation.”

I thought about my own son, who for years has faced challenges that come with life and with living. By this label, he is also considered to be part of this, our most selfish generation.

But, what does Time Magazine know of the many times my son has set aside his own needs simply to help those ‘who needed it more.’

I think of that one Valentine’s Day, when I sat crying at the table—my own, very abusive boyfriend having ‘forgotten’ me on that most special day. My son, just barely nine years old bundled up in his best winter clothes and spent the next hour trudging through the heavy snow. And when he burst through that door, cheeks blistered red from the cold, I knew he had done something most special. “Mommy, come look!”

And there it was, in the hillside where the snow was deepest, and written in the largest letters I believe I have ever seen, a simple gesture that meant the world to me. It said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. I love you,” and for all of this world to see.

He could have easily just retreated to his room, unaware of the complexities of our ‘big person’ relationships.

Instead he braved the cold, and simply because he knew, I needed it more.

And, I remember the time when in the middle of the darkest night I received that call, “Mom, you need to come get us now. Dad, doesn’t want us here.” And when I arrived, there they stood, my son holding his sister whose eyes were filled with tears—and carrying in his hands, a plastic clothes basket filled with all of their most treasured belongings. He could have easily cried, but he held his head straightforward and high, and simply to be there for his sister.

Because she needed it more.

And when my health began this, it’s sharpest decline? My son was right there, doing all the heavy jobs around the house—and without, not once, ever having to be asked.

Why? Because he knew…how very much, I needed his support.

And now, on the occasion of him leaving this ‘nest’ and setting his sails to another, brand new world—he has just one question on his mind, that is, ‘How can I be of service to others?’

For you see, when my son graduates, he won’t be sitting around, self-absorbed into his video games. Rather, he will be swapping out his kid clothes for that of a military uniform.

Why? Because, he knows this world needs it more.

Sadly, being of service doesn’t seem to sell as many magazines these days. However, I certainly won’t be buying this one.

Why? Because, I know the reality of my own son’s heart better than any reporter living half-way across these United States might ever say.

Nipun Mehta, who was recently ‘selected’ to deliver this year’s commencement speech at The Harker School, an elite High School in San Jose, had this to say,

“This week, Time Magazine’s cover story labeled you guys as the “Me, Me, Me” generation; the week before, NY Times reported that the suicide rate for Gen X went up by 30% in the last decade, and 50% for the boomer generation. We’ve just learned that atmospheric carbon levels surpassed 400 PPM for the first time in human history. Our honeybee colonies are collapsing, thereby threatening the future of our food supply. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

And as he paused to look over the sea of young face staring back from this crowd, he continued,

“What we’re handing over to you is a world full of inspiring realities coupled with incredibly daunting ones. In other words: miserable and magical isn’t just a pop-song lyric—it’s the paradox that you are inheriting from us.”

Indeed, it is a daunting task—one that requires our loving-kindness and support in helping this generation navigate those rough waters. And, our job here is not ever done—rather, our job here has just begun.

“At the core of all of today’s most pressing challenges is one fundamental issue: we have become profoundly disconnected. We’ve forgotten how to rescue each other.”

Ironic, that this spiritual distance occurs in a world where Facebook has recently surpassed more than 150 billion connections. And yet, we all know the capacity for loving-kindness and compassion exists within each of us in so many ways. It’s part of our spiritual DNA—that magical sequence of ‘coding’ that compels us to greatness in times of hardship or tragedy.

“We know we have it because we saw it at Sandy Hook, in the brave teachers who gave up their lives to save their students. We saw it during the Boston Marathon when runners completed the race and kept running to the nearest blood bank.  We saw it just this week in Oklahoma when a waiter at a fast food chain decided to donate all his tips to the tornado relief efforts and triggered a chain of generosity.”

And why? Because, just like my son, they realized someone else needed it more.

I think Time Magazine has perhaps missed the mark on this one. We don’t live in a “Me, Me, Me” generation—we just live in a world that is awfully, very confusing.

And, our job here today—is to share a little of our own light each day with this world.

Why? Because, I believe this generation needs it more.

Video: The Most Inspirational Commencement Speech Ever.

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About Tara Lemieux

Tara Lemieux is a mindful wanderer, and faithful stargazer. She is an ardent explorer and lover of finding things previously undiscovered (or, at the very least, mostly not-uncovered.) When she’s not writing, you can find her walking in the woods and sometimes changing the way we look at things, one simple moment at a time. You can contact her at via her website Mindfully Musing or, take one second to "LIKE" her on Facebook at Tara's Facebook Page. Or email her directly at tara@taralemieux.com. All roads will lead to one home, and rest assured she (and Nudnick, the wonder dog) would LOVE to hear from you.

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19 Responses to “The Most Inspirational Commencement Speech Ever: Nipun Mehta Addresses the “Me, Me, Me” Generation.”

  1. Monica says:

    This was a beautiful article, thank you for writing it.

  2. Destiny says:

    I am glad to read about your son's kind acts. However, I feel the older and more advanced the children of this generation got, the more fitting the label, "me, me, me" generation. I believe children have a bigger capacity to love because they're not caught up with relationships, social media, school, jobs, bills, etc. I've noticed that the older I've gotten the more my life has focused on, "woe is me because I'm having trouble paying for school, finding a job, having to take depression and anxiety medication just to get by, etc.." Children don't have those worries and are still discovering what this world is like. The older we get the more we see the world from a subjective point of view, trying to keep up with society instead of being able to enjoy life as our own personal journey. Society in a way forces us to be so concerned about ourselves because people are looked down upon when they don't know what they want to do with their lives, ridiculed for loving someone of the same gender, or like Nipun Mehta experienced, questioned for their generosity instead of being encouraged to embrace a selfless point of view. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, however. Best wishes.

  3. Tara Lemieux Tara says:

    I don’t agree with your thoughts that children are without worries ~ that’s simply not true. Children worry over many “adult sized” issues – “will I have a place to stay”…”will I have food to eat”…”will anyone ever love me”

    These are very real fears that children face each day, and they are tied directly to our human hierarchy of basic needs. Shelter, food, and to love and be loved in return.

    My son is 17 now, but at 5 years old he was already facing the harsher realities of this world. And I’ve not even mentioned my daughter, who at just 15 years old helped to take care of her Mom after a grueling surgery. She literally washed my hair and helped me back to some semblance of “uprightedness”.

    Do you not think their fears and their worries are in any way as real as your own?

    And still, their hearts are pure and their sails set to service.

    Society doesn’t force us to be self absorbed – it is our choice in how we respond to challenge and adversity.

    My children’s choice was service. Even on my sickest, frailest day – that part of their spirit shined through.

  4. puzzled says:

    It's a nice sentiment and a nice defense of our generation, but it isn't really a response to the article because it doesn't go past the headline. It's like judging a book by the cover. This author took that cover as a personal affront. But the reality is that narcissism is on the rise. Of course there will always be more kind and compassionate indivduals, and humans do have a way of responding to crisis in amazing ways.

    But that doesn't mean Time got it "wrong." At least, you can't know until you open the magazine. Narcissism is on the rise. The data does not lie new technologies keep people more isolated and often prevent people from forming essential social and emotional bonding capabilities during their formative years.

    As an educator I can see we are in a crisis. Our school is, and more schools should, be taking a proactive role in intentionally developing empathic response within our students.

    • Tara Lemieux Tara Lemieux says:

      Puzzled – I *did* read the article. And, I still don't agree. Data can be molded to offer a view to suit any authors needs – but, in order for it to be valid, it must be placed in its fullest context. That includes using statistics on acts of kindness and compassion. Thank you, this author will stand by her very own experiences – that of each child that I meet, who wants nothing more than to reflect back our light.

  5. Bella says:

    Beautiful… I totally agree.

    I was a bit shocked by the military statement though….
    Let's not have the illusion that being in the military is a life of 'service'…
    Service of what? The government? For whom? And to what end?

    I read once somewhere that 'a generation of people who love peace will bring peace'.

    • Tara Lemieux Tara Lemieux says:

      Thank you, Bella – but, so that I better understand, are you saying that soldiers are not capable of serving in the capacity of mindfulness and peace? As a veteran, I don't agree – as I would have offered my own, such that any family may have had peace.

    • Geoff Withnell says:

      Do you seriously think that people in the military do not love peace? Those of us who have served in the military love peace so much, we are willing to give it up ourselves, so that those we protect may have peace. There is violence int the world. Police, firefighters, military, etc. place ourselves "between our loved homes, and war's desolation". Even Gandhi admitted that his success with non-violence was predicated on the fact that his opponent, the English, had a conscience. So the military, in a society trying to just, such as this one, is in service of you, so you will not be attacked by rude strangers, intent on controlling your actions, your mind, your body and your soul.

  6. edieyoga says:

    Oh my….this is fascinating…I don't agree with War in general but it is a reality and those who are willing to serve are serving….they are offering their time, the greatest gift of all, to their country and risk losing their lives in many instances. I also think we can find selfishness and narcissism in others, in any generation but we can also find care and compassion and love.
    Love is always imperfect. Children suffer I think more deeply than most realize in part because they don't know themselves as well or have a wealth of experience to draw from to process feelings. They have to wriggle around in their confusion and try to understand the so-called adults around them, not knowing people may grow older but many don't grow up.
    Adults tend to idolize childhood but it's tough, being young…why do you think they have to be so resilient….

  7. Bella says:

    I'm only saying that KILLING in the name of PEACE doesn't make sense…. in any way, if you really look at it.

    I know that in America war is glorified, and sold as a necessity to 'protect' the citizens. The 'war on terror' is a perfect example of this. But ultimately, no, if you look at the stark reality of what the US military actually does, rather than the glorified version you have been sold, they do not bring peace, support peace or even allow peace to exist in many other countries.

    Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year. The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.

    Just in the last one hundred years… most of the following wars were under the guise of keeping peace in those countries, but ask anyone there who will tell you that the US military kept 'peace' by killing many innocent people.
    Let's get educated people!

    Banana Wars (1898-1935)
    Boxer Rebellion (1899-1902)
    First World War (1917-1918)
    Russian Revolution (1918-1919)
    Second World War (1941-1945)
    Korean War (1950-1953)
    Lebanon crisis (1958)
    Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)
    Dominican Intervention (1965)
    Vietnam War (1957-1975)
    Operation Eagle Claw (1980)
    Grenada Conflict (1983)
    Beirut Confict (1982-1984)
    Panama Invaison (1989)
    Persian Gulf War (1990-1991)
    Somolia: Operation Restore Hope (1992-1993)
    Kosovo War (1996-1999)
    Yugoslavia Conflict (1999)
    War on Terrorism (2001–present)
    War in Afghanistan (2001-present)
    Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (2002)
    Liberia peacekeeping (2003)
    Iraq War (2003-present)

    • Tara Lemieux Tara says:

      Bella – this is an article about beautiful children (my own) and a most wonderful speech. It was an article i had written (mostly) to my son, and to acknowledhe how very much i love and am grateful for his spirit. How can you possibly use this as a platform for politicizing?

  8. Josie says:

    Although its wonderful to hear that Nipun Metha's kids are givers, they are more the exception than the rule. As a father of young children I do see a more selfish generation growing up around me. A large part is due to the way our society and consumerism is conditioning them. From a very early age kids are being conditioned to receive, rarely to give and this needs to change as it breeds selfishness, envy, fear and conflict.

  9. Anne Falkowski Anne says:

    Tara, I have three children, two teens and one six year old. I think your article is right on. And kids today face so much more than we did. Every thing they do is instant and public immediately. Also if we want to call this generation narcisstic, we need to look at ourselves, the adults and society that is raising them. But I don't think they are narcissitic. The other thing is that they have been preyed upon by big business as commodities since the day they were born. Is this their fault? I think kids these days are alot more complex than we realize. They have alot more worries than we did.

  10. edieyoga says:

    Just want to say to all if anyone has read much of what this author writes you would see the love and generous spirit, the way she finds light and shares what she finds….

  11. Bella says:

    Hi Tara…

    I am genuinely sorry about that… I was not meaning to politicise, and infact almost never leave comments anywhere online at all, I was just so touched by your article, then shocked by the part that seemed to be glorifying military work, so it produced quite intense conflicting emotion in me, that's why I responded that way. I'm sorry.

    The article is beautiful and I can see how much you love your son.

    May he continue to serve for the good of all beings everywhere.

    Blessings

  12. Tara Lemieux Tara Lemieux says:

    Thank you, Bella – that means so much to me. Peace to you, as well. <3

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