George Saunders is a professor of English at Syracuse University and a writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children's books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker and Harper's, among other publications.
In 2013, Saunders delivered the convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013, and shared it with The New York Times where it was reprinted with his permission.
In April of 2014 the speech was published by Random House in this little book. Mr. Saunders argues that "as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder." He understands that we all have ambitions for fame, fortune and love but urges us as much as possible to: "err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial."
Although the entire graduation speech appears in The New York Times, the book is beautifully produced. The speech takes only about 15 minutes to read but each word carries weight and meaning. It is a speech to savor and re-read often. Although the speech is available online, I recommend buying the book. But in any event, the speech is absolutely worth reading.