A diverse cast of Random House authors toasted and shared words of inspiration for the Class of 2020 at a Virtual Commencement via Zoom last week. Martha Stewart, George Saunders, Lauren Graham, Donovan Livingston, Wes Moore, Reshma Saujani, David Brooks, and Anna Quindlen presented stirring commencement speeches.
More than 300 people (include 2020 grads and anyone looking for a rousing dose of inspiration, no matter what path they’re one) registered for this one-time event and 250 tuned in live. All registered guests within the United States paid $10 (PRH employees were able to watch for free) and received a featured author’s book of their choosing.
Theresa Zoro, Random House Executive Vice President & Executive Creative Director, Public Relations & Marketing, explains how the Virtual Commencement was conceived and produced: “The Integrated Marketing and PR team uses trend research and reporting to help inform some of our events’ programming and strategy. Commencement—or lack thereof— was trending. From there, we reached out to our metadata team to help refine a search on the top-selling graduation themed books for our group. The next step was reaching out to authors to help build the event. We are pleased so many people joined us for a powerful evening of words, wisdom, and inspiration during this difficult time.”
Here are excerpts:
- “Maybe throwing out plans is the secret to living a really satisfying life. Maybe the checklist was always an empty exercise. Maybe this is the perfect moment to embrace a way of doing things we’ve never embraced before … Do we want our lives to be a resume or an adventure? … The graduates this year, the class of 2020, are entering a world turned upside down. That should send them a message, the old ways––hallelujah!––can be cast aside … be brave, take the leap… courage, and god speed.” ––Anna Quindlen
- “Because it won’t always be this way I challenge you to resist the desire for a return to normalcy … I challenge you to envision a new normal that is intersectional and inclusive, that sees progress and asks, ‘Who are we leaving behind?”” ––Donovan Livingston
- “Some of the biggest acts of bravery and courage have come in times of crisis. We know we have to keep our heads up, our feet moving, and keep moving forward.” ––Reshma Saujani
- “Never forget who it is that we’re supposed to be fighting for…The question that will be repeatedly asked of you is who did you choose to fight for when it mattered?” ––Wes Moore
- “It’s good for the world for a writer to bear witness, and it’s good for the writer, too. Especially if she can bear witness with love and humor and, despite it all, some fondness for the world, just as it is manifesting, warts and all.” ––George Saunders
- “We’ll live through all of this and find a new future.” ––Martha Stewart