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on April 22, 2014
Disclaimer - this is just a published version of a commencement speech given by Saunders in 2013, and is still widely available on the web for free.

The speech is fantastic though, and this is a great "gift" book.
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VINE VOICEon April 24, 2014
As graduates begin their careers, what should be at the top of their list? Saunders says it's to never let a chance to be kind go by unfulfilled. And he says it beautifully.

Saunders is right. If I had to name the happiest people I've met in my life and that I remember with the most fondness, it would be those who were consistently kind to me and to others.

If I could choose the legacy to leave when I depart this world - the way I'd like to be remembered, it might be "He was always kind" (I'm sure it won't be).

Saunders gives us the inspiration to be kind and a few suggestions as to how. Not bad for only a few words.
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on May 14, 2014
This is a little book I read in one brief sitting while sipping a Starbuck's grande low fat iced latte. It struck a powerful chord in me, echoing my own experience having arrived at the age of 75.
I then got in my car, surfed satellite radio for music, medical advice, whatever, and chanced upon someone being interviewed on NPR. As I listened, I was amazed to figure out that the person being interviewed was George Saunders talking about this very speech!!! Powerful positive reinforcement! I'm going to give this book to my daughters, grandchildren and close friends . . . and read it again . . . and again . . . myself!
Patricia Ross
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‘Congratulations, by the way’ is a book that brought on its pages a commencement speech given by George Saunders - the work not too long in its duration, but great due to its importance.

On May 11 2013 at the Carrier Dome, writer and Professor George Saunders delivered the convocation speech for the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Its transcript became highly successful when it was posted on the ‘The New York Times’ web page, where Saunders simple, but motivating words about kindness managed to arouse the wealth of positive energy in those people who listened to him are later read its speech.

“…So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything…”

Although it comes on only sixty pages, of which half are the pictures, the author manages to say so much wonderful about the importance of kindness in his work that it can certainly be recommended not only to those who will read for themselves, but also as a wonderful gift for future graduates as a guiding principle for life and a career which lie in front of them.
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on May 15, 2014
This is yet another piece from Saunders that has an incredible voice and the whole time you, the reader, knows he means every word of it.
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on September 25, 2014
This is a bound and published edition of Saunders' commencement speech at Syracuse University in 2013. You could certainly complain that it's not really a "book", that it was originally published in the New York Times, and that it is very brief.

But it's worth reading.

What advice do you give to graduating students? Often it's about how to succeed in the world -- e.g., find something you love to do and do it. And there have been memorable commencement speeches of that type. Some go beyond that, e.g., the speech that Steve Jobs gave to graduating Stanford students in 2005.

Saunders gives a very simple message -- be kind.

He asks himself what he regrets in his own life, from the vantage point of decades that the students he is talking to haven't experienced yet. And the thing that he identifies is his indifference toward a girl in his school when he was young. He wasn't mean to her, but he ignored her when she needed kindness.

I can certainly think of the missed opportunities in my life when I wasn't kind to someone -- it would have taken so little. My life won't be any the less for having missed that last jump shot in the final seconds of a basketball game. It will be less for having turned away from someone who I could have helped have a better life. Few of us can say that we've kept the right balance of self-interest and kindness.

I've read criticisms of Saunders' speech, that he ignores the material difficulties facing students who graduate from college today, with poor employment opportunities and often carrying heavy college loan debts on into their distant futures. I would imagine those things weigh more heavily on their minds than whether or not they are kind persons. But Saunders' message is one from a vantage point he knows is decidedly not that of his audience but one he feels they could profit from -- it is better to decide what matters in your life before you are looking back on it.

I'd give the book 5 stars for content, but I'm giving it 4 as a "product" -- the speech itself is (and should be) available for free in a number of places, including video. I bought the book because . . . well, I buy George Saunders' books. I do like the idea that others have mentioned, of giving the book as a gift.
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on May 6, 2014
I saw this speech on the web along with Mr. Saunders other interviews at Google and the New York Times. He's a very engaging man, with a wonderful sense of humor and an easy, natural style. I hope his speech sets the new graduates to thinking differently, there may be hope for the world yet. As for the rest of us we are never too old to learn kindness.

I had a copy of the speech already but I purchased this book to make a small contribution and a show of solidarity with this attitude and thought process. A little more thoughtfulness and reflection on our part and who knows we may yet be able to roll back the last 30 years of greed and selfishness.
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2014
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.
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on June 2, 2014
It is so simple, yet profound. The words say so much more than most graduation speeches-is worthy of being repeated at every graduation in the country to remind our young people of the truly important parts of a good life.
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on August 16, 2015
First -- don't expect a full length book. This was a college commencement address. Second -- the blank pages aren't blank, but gradually fill with stars. Enjoy that. Finally -- it's the address I hope those students take to heart and live by. It could change the world. It will definitely change theirs if they choose kindness as a way of life. I share this book often -- especially with the young ones in my life.
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