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Congratulations, by the way

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  6,160 ratings  ·  820 reviews
Three months after George Saunders gave a graduation address at Syracuse University in 2013, a transcript of that speech was posted on the website of The New York Times, where its simple, uplifting message struck a deep chord. Within days, it had been shared more than one million times. Why? Because Saunders’s words tap into a desire in all of us to lead kinder, more fulfi ...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Random House (first published 2013)
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 ·  6,160 ratings  ·  820 reviews

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Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
‘what i regret most in my life are failures of kindness.’

continuing my tradition of starting off the new year with some words of inspiration and much needed positivity (see previous years: 2020, 2019, and 2018).

as we begin a new year and try to move on from the trials and upsets of the previous year, GSs 2013 address provides some excellent advice - everything we do should be done in kindness.

selfishness is a sickness we are all susceptible to getting it but, fortunately, theres a cure. do
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, library-book
”Down the rough ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who over the course of his life has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people with all of their best years ahead of that (that would be you)

And I intent to respect that tradition.”

And so he talks about the things he’s done, things perhaps someone else might think he would regret, or sho
Bill Kerwin
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays

Since it is graduation time again, I thought I would revisit one of my favorite commencement addresses, namely, the speech the fiction writer George Saunders delivered at Syracuse in 2013. Although it is mercifully short—a quality that should (alas!) be true of every blessed graduation speech—it also contains a powerful message.

Mixed in with the humor, and personal anecdotes (include one memorable tale about a Sumatran river and monkey-poop), Saunders tells the graduates one important fact about
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humorous-essays
. . . success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it.

My oldest son will graduate from college on Saturday. I'll sit and watch, and try not to cry. The kid who once ate the dog food the dog didn't want will have a degree in Philosophy. What he will do with that degree is anyone's guess. I like to joke that his job will involve knowing the difference between a Grande and a Venti, but who knows? As his adviser swears, my son can write and he can think, and that puts him
Sam Quixote
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Congratulations, by the way is a slightly expanded version of the commencement speech George Saunders gave at Syracuse University on May 11, 2013 - and it’s truly wunnerful!

Saunders makes the case for a life lived with purposeful kindness and unselfishness at the forefront, and does so in his amusing, charming and eloquent style. It’s a kinda corny sentiment, and exactly what you’d expect to hear at this sort of ceremony - a fact Saunders wryly notes at the beginning - but an important one to k
This book is the convocation speech George Saunders gave to the 2013 graduating class at Syracuse University.

George Saunders is the kind of old white guy that we want to give us life advice. He doesn't have many answers, and I argue this makes his advice even more valuable. He has only a few good hints, gleaned after a lifetime of rough and tumble. His dedication at the beginning of the book mentions his grandparents, in loving memory. In the course of the speech he tells us that when we become
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lecture
"As you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE."

This was the perfect book to read on January 1st.

This commencement speech by George Saunders is about the importance of being kind, which is something I am aware of, I know other people do it, but it's not something I exercise often in my life. Yes, I am kind to my loved ones and my dear friends, and I am polite and courteous to people I encounter, but I don't feel like I am kind. Instea
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.
I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

A Commencement Speech that everyone should listen once!

Dave Schaafsma
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Here’s the simple 2013 Syracuse University commencement speech, which I had read before, online, and now reread in hardcover. Why? Because I wake up every day and I go to sleep these days looking at social media and newspaper articles and see that his simple message is sorely needed:

"What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”

Here is Trish’s sweet review:

Since I am a teacher, I go to graduations every year and always cry at that same place, to
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thank my friend Trish for pointing out George Saunders' Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness to me. I loved it and I am relieved I still have time to be kinder hoping that later on I will feel less regret.

For Saunders can teach us a lesson that we should not forget, "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness." Yes, let's follow his advice:
"Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fo
May 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Glad I got out of the library. It's a pretty little book, but $14? I think of all the wonderful literature out there one can buy for the same price. Look this up on the internet and read in ten minutes. A nice sentiment to preach to graduates to be kind, but nothing remarkable in the language or insights or advice. ...more
Aug 17, 2016 marked it as to-read
This copy is signed by George Saunders.

This is a slightly expanded version of a commencement speech given by the author at Syracuse University May 11. 2013.
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2014
Very slender volume - I read it in 10 minutes - that packs a whole lot of punch. This is the convocation address George Saunders delivered at Syracuse University in May 2013. You can watch it on YouTube (12 minutes), but I think it is much better quietly read and pondered than said.

The central message is very simple - try to be kinder - but the sentiment is delivered so eloquently and memorably that it is something I will carry with me and mull over from time to time. An instant classic, much li
John Weiler
May 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Be kind now. Repeat as required.
I just gave away the entire book ... my first act of kindness.

Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only twenty pages, but George Saunders makes the most of his speech, to the Syracuse University graduating class 0f 2013. He speaks of his own life and his mistakes as a adult. But mostly the speech is about kindness. Given the horrendous climate of unkindness, that has taken the U.S. by storm, I was really eager and needed to read this. It made me feel better and that's something in this day and age. ...more
Cathy DuPont
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stopped by the library to take something back, and always, always leave with something. For shame. If I read one book a day, I have enough books to read for a year but here I am taking books home to read.

Anyway, this is a feel good book and in movie form, "Pay it Forward."

Recently I read something about Saunders giving this address on kindness to a graduating college class. I did not go looking for the book but when I read the cover and back, I knew it was that book.

Thanks to my mother, I'm a
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief but salient; the perfect Saunders reminder that kindness is that which really brings us together. It is something that is so easy to lose sight of in the busy, ambitious world, but that is never regrettable.
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this on a whim after I had been drinking. I had already read the speech online, which I liked, and thought that this was the extended or complete transcript, since the details online said that it was 64 pages. I didn't know that half of the pages were flip-book imagery, and most of the pages were unfilled with text. It is also a very small book, so yeah, it easily contains the whole commencement speech that you can find for free. In that sense I was disappointed, but if I had not been t ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ok, so I will admit to reading this slim volume tonight to get to 101 books this year (my reading goal), but I think I will read it every year on New Year's Eve. Absolutely beautiful, and a good reminder about what is truly important. ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Saunders throws down the gauntlet, challenging us all to look for ways to be kind now, not later. I say, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
W.D. Clarke
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ok this is, like, the shortest book, ever? Got it for my bday last year, finally got around to reading it. Cute, pure George, and did I say it was short? But if this had been the graduation speech I'd gotten when I went through, I would have thought it quite moving, cos I thought it was quite moving anyhow, even this far along...BTW you can watch the actual commencement address here:, and an even shorter but more polished, animated adaptation here: https: ...more
I could have looked this speech up easily on the internet, but I waited for it. I knew it would be great. I heard it was great. I purposely waited with anticipation for the official book publication.
I'm happy to say there was no disapointment here.
In the same vein as David Foster Walace's "This is Water" George Saunders asks us to consider kindness. The illustrations of light bursting, and expanding as if in a heavenly constellation, add warmth and imagination to the idea that kindness grows in
Smitha Murthy
I haven't read a single book by George Saunders, but reading this essay makes me feel like picking up every single one of his books. This 'book' was a lecture that Saunders gave at Syracuse University. "Here's something I know to be true, although it's a little corny, and I don't quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness'" I can't agree more, Saunders.

This is an utterly beautiful essay. Moving, evocative, and something for all of us to lead our lives b
catherine ♡
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This speech really hit me, especially in the beginning. Failures of kindness are things I regret as well - and there’s one memory in particular that will really haunt me forever. It’s something I used to fuel myself now, to not be a bystander, to take action, and to just be kinder to everyone.

Either way, there was some valuable life advice in this speech, and George Saunders is right. Becoming successful is hard. But defining success is even harder.
This is another case of "I'm not sure how I heard about this, but it was on my goodreads list and was available at my online library". This is a short (13 minute audiobook) commemoration speech by an author I haven't read from before. While it was nice and did make me laugh a bit at the beginning, it mainly just reminded me of the wonderful This Is Water commemoration speech by David Wallace that I read last month. It has a very similar theme but was a bit more in-depth and really struck a nerve ...more
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
George Saunders is a bestselling author of several collections of short stories. He has also been the recipient of other very prestigious awards and recognitions. Mr. Saunders was asked to give a convocation address at Syracuse University. His address was posted on the website of the New York Times. Within a few days, it had been shared more than one million times!

This short book contains the text of that address. In it, Mr. Saunders conveys his thoughts on what graduates should keep in mind wh
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received this as a gift from a thoughtful friend and read it in one brief sitting. It's the text of a college graduation speech, printed bit by bit on thick off-white pages, interspersed with dark blue pages depicting a night sky that gets progressively starry to the end. It is, like many graduation speeches, rather cliche. And, like many such speeches, it is also a helpful refresher of timeless truths we're prone to forget. Four stars to this tiny book, not because it's particularly clever, b ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I'm currently reading Lincoln in the Bardo and loving it, so I came into my office this morning and looked up Saunders previous work. This little book caught my eye; a convocation address Saunders gave a few years back. I love inspirational speeches-turned-books and was surprised to find a copy nestled on my colleagues shelf. I took it back to my desk, read the whole thing, smiling, and now my morning is off to a better start. And I'll be a little kinder today.
Also, Lincoln is gorgeous, George.
Stephanie Kelley
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
so like my opinion of these kinds of books ("let's print a short speech and juxtapose text with illustration to make a fancy self-help-type book that people will pay £10.95 for") is 1 star--negative 3 stars, actually--but i read this in the library so i paid £0 and it was kind of exact what i needed. so. there you go. ...more
Lisa Kentgen
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality -- your soul, if you will -- is as bright and shining as any that has ever been."

Thanks George.
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George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysi ...more

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