Occidental College :: David Brooks 2010 Commencement Speech

The move to an information economy means that to flourish in any profession, you have to know how to navigate a social environment. The average self-made millionaire in this country had a collegiate GPA of 2.75. These entrepreneurs may not be scholars, but they have the ability to perceive emerging patterns, to understand what they are good at and to work phenomenally hard to hone their capacities.

You don’t find the best lawyers or politicians or teachers with an IQ test. You find the future superstars in these fields by asking the following question: Who is friends with who in this room? The people who can answer that kind of question, who have that kind of exceptional social awareness, will do phenomenally well in life. So people who do well professionally are the ones who know how to attach well with others, how to embrace contradictory evidence with an open heart, how to interpenetrate other minds and feel as they are feeling. They have taken the time to educate their emotions. The members of the Scottish Enlightenment wrote about these sentiments not only as a way to understand public life, and private life, but to understand everything. That’s why a degree from a liberal arts college is actually the most practical degree you can possibly get, because that’s how you educate your emotions.

May 2010.