Prepared text of Tara Gu's address
Following is the prepared text of the 2012 Baccalaureate student speech by Tara Gu, senior graduating with a major in public policy and a minor in human biology.
April 12, 2012, Stanford student Facebook status: "So I'm walking between the library and Hoover Tower when Oprah flies by me on a golf cart with an armada of fans pursuing her on bike as her bodyguard is yelling into his wrist mic. #Stanfordlife."
In typical #Stanfordlife fashion, I've had the privilege to meet extraordinary individuals on this campus over the past four years. But of all the people I've met, the most important person I've met is me. I've become closer to knowing who I am. By who I am, I mean what I care about; my values, priorities, and beliefs; whether I can even articulate those values; and how well I can live up to those beliefs.
Our society increasingly obsesses over metrics, or the idea of measuring quantifiable results of our actions. We measure percent gain in shareholding value, increase in student performance on standardized testing, and net revenue per physician. But in trumpeting results, we have sometimes forsaken the process. Business ethics have deteriorated. Some teachers have taught to the test. Patient-physician relationships have strained. In emphasizing metrics, we equate achievement with scoring higher on the measurable things that we have identified, and we further reinforce these specified metrics. This is problematic for two reasons: 1) We define results only as measurable things and neglect the immeasurable; 2) How do we know that we are measuring the right thing?
For most of us, throughout our lives, our metric of achievement has been grounded in what we do. What we do arguably granted us admission to Stanford, and it has been the focus of attention since we were little. At age 5, it was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And at age 22, it is, "What are you going to do next year?" Having an answer to these questions elicits "oohs" and "ahhs," as if having a plan for achievement is half the achievement. We are asked about the result that we want, but we are rarely asked to reflect upon the process. By process, I mean the question of who we want to be. Who do you want to be when you grow up? Who do you want to be next year? These are far more difficult questions to answer, and yet most of us spend less time thinking about them.
In April of this year, Newark's mayor and our Commencement speaker, Cory Booker, ran into a burning house and carried a neighbor through smoky stairwells and falling flames. Why were we so impressed with Mayor Booker's actions that we tweeted #Stanfordcommencementspeaker #likeaboss? Were we drawn to the result of his Dark Knight heroics, his achievement of saving someone's life? Or did we admire what his actions said about who he is, his ability to live up to his values of public service?
Graduation marks a result. That coveted 8-by-11-inch piece of paper will grant us another neat line of size 10 font to add to our resumes. But those pretty calligraphy letters do not reveal the process. They do not say anything about the philosophical late night hallway conversations, the chicken tenders from Axe and Palm, or the saddening loss of two members from our community this year.
Results are measurable but not memorable. What is memorable is not measurable. What is measurable is not memorable.