John Legend has taken the stage at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, giving the graduating class of 2021 some words of advice before they head out into the world.
The Grammy Award-winning singer spoke about lots of things, including performing with Kanye West on campus back in 2004 and not thinking much of his own graduation back in 1999. But mostly, he spoke of love.
About leading with love. And about the power of love.
He began by acknowledging the importance of community and uplifting each other:
“I feel your pain: You’ve lost something that you won’t get back,” John said, referring to the many losses students have felt during the pandemic.
“Over the past year, you were forced to pause, to see yourselves not just in competition with one another but in community with each other,” he explains.
“We all had to slow down, social distance, cover our faces, stop filling our days with maximum productivity and simply keep each other alive, care for one another.”
John points out that “competitiveness can be a slippery slope to thinking: For me to get ahead in life, for me to succeed, someone else is going to have to lose out. Someone else is going to have to suffer.”
But as John explains, “we all do better when we all do better.”
He reminds students that just because they’re graduating, their learning “doesn’t end today” and that with an open mind and heart they can learn so much more.
John then encouraged graduates to remember that “love should be your North Star. Let it guide you.”
“Maybe this sounds more like song lyrics than a serious point,” he laughed. “But I believe it with every fibre of my being.”
So do we John! So. Do. We.
So how exactly do you lead with love?
According to John, it’s about “being curious” about others, “taking care of and looking out for each other” and “letting go of fear and embracing our shared humanity.”
He urges the graduating class to tap into that love for our neighbours, for justice and for “a world where we don’t need to win at someone else’s expense.”
Watch his full speech below: