Patti Smith Commencement Speech: Direct from the Heart

I am a huge Patti Smith admirer, for many years now, but especially now after reading her fascinating memoir, Just Kids. A fabulous, uplifting book that could have been subtitled: “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Woman.” I’d love to hang out with her for an afternoon, or invite her to one of those miracle lunches when you can bring together a bunch of anybodys.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.

She is a true deep-to-the-bone artist.

Patti Smith recently earned an honorary degree from Pratt College and gave a commencement speech, which you can see in full. I recommend that you watch it.

You can also read the full transcript here, at the Smoking Bop Gun.

The ten-minute talk is filled with great moments, here’s just one of them:

I think of this like Pinnochio, because Pinnochio went out into the world. He went on his road filled with good intentions, with a vision. He went ready to do all the things he dreamed, but he was pulled this way and that. He was distracted. He faltered. He made mistakes. But he kept on. Pinnochio in the end became himself because the little flame inside him, no matter what crap he went through, would not be extinguished.

We are all Pinnochio.

And do you know what I found after several decades of life? We are Pinnochio over and over again. We achieve our goal. We become a level of ourselves. And then we want to go further, and we make new mistakes, and we have new hardships. But we prevail. We are human. We are alive. We have blood.

For a punk rocker and a tough-minded bird, Patti still has a lovely vulnerability and sweetness to her, a purity of intent, as evidenced in this amazing clip when she sang “You Light Up My LIfe” on the TV show, “Kids Are People Too.” She always, always speaks directly from the heart.

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