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My Commencement Speech

I wish someone would invite me to give a commencement address. I feel like I have a lot of wisdom to impart.

Here’s what I would tell new grads: find a career that fits your brain, learn what motivates you, and consider investing in a pill organizer so you don’t take your Adderall twice.

GraduationOK, that last part might be overly specific. But overall, I think I could give a pretty good graduation speech. I wouldn’t even charge a lot of money. Honestly, if they agreed to link to my blog and the school was prestigious enough, I’d probably do it just for the SEO boost.

And the honorary degree. I’m not sure what honorary degree would be most appropriate, but Doctor of Inattention is definitely in the running. Followed closely by Master of Sorry, Could You Repeat That, I Wasn’t Listening.

Admittedly, there would also be some risks to inviting me as a commencement speaker. No, not students walking out of commencement in protest kind of risks. You’re safe there. I have plenty of flaws (as documented extensively on this blog), but advocating that businesses should have a legal right to deny service on the basis of sexuality is not one of them.

In my case, the risks of having me as a commencement speaker are more mundane. First, there’s the chance that I wouldn’t get around to writing my speech until the morning of commencement. (True story: I gave a speech at my sister’s wedding, and that’s how it went down.) Then there’s the chance that once I’d written my speech, I’d forget to actually bring it to commencement. Then there’s the chance that I would write my speech and bring it to commencement, but that I would forget which day commencement was on.

All of those risks could make for a funny story after the fact. As in hey, remember that time you guys invited me to give a commencement address and I showed up a day late and gave an impassioned speech in an empty stadium? But at graduation itself, they would definitely pose logistical complications. Then again, logistical complications are par for the course with ADHD.

Still, I’ll suggest that all those risks are worth it, because I do have something to say to people who are graduating, and especially people who are graduating with ADHD.

It’s this: if, like me, you found that your ADHD brain put you at odds with school, you are entering an exciting new phase, where you can explore new environments, seek out workplaces, and find ways of structuring your life that are more aligned with your strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t an easy process. It involves trying out new coping strategies, learning from setbacks, and possibly even getting fired. But as you get closer to having a life that’s in tune with the unique way your brain operates, you’ll find that the unpredictable journey is absolutely worth it.

Congratulations to everyone graduating with ADHD! If I could, I would personally give each of you an honorary Doctor of Inattention because you’ve really, really earned it.

Image: Flickr/Illinois Springfield

My Commencement Speech

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). My Commencement Speech. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 18 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.