Non-religious quotes for graduating university students?
April 17, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me find an inspirational quote that is non-religious.

I am looking for a quote, similar to the one below, that does not make reference to god or religion.

I'm trying to write a message to newly graduating college students for work. My boss has indicated that she likes the spirit of the quote but that, because of the religious overtones, we can't use it. (I agree.)

Unfortunately, I've been having trouble finding a secular quote that carries the same spirit. I've googled around and checked out a bunch of "inspirational quote" websites, but can't seem to find anything good.

Here's the quote:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you?ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway. --Kent M. Kieth
Any suggestions? Ideally, it would be from someone with name recognition, but it's not a deal breaker if it isn't.
posted by asnider to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Could you just use it without the last sentence?
posted by Madamina at 2:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." That's what the sunscreen lady said, anyhow.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

"You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and you;"
posted by oxit at 2:27 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Vaguely appropriate quotes from my collection:

Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. —Robert Jarvik

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. — Mark Twain

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.
— Shakespeare
posted by Strass at 2:28 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

William Shakespeare- "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. But omitted, and the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves -- or lose the ventures before us."

Ayn Rand- "Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours."

Henry James- "Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.'"

William Blake- "There are things that are known and thing that are unknown, and in between, there are doors."
posted by livinglearning at 2:31 PM on April 17, 2012

"It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention ... no specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you ... Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity; with clarity comes conviction and true originality ... whatever you think your dream is now, it will change, and that’s okay."

-- Conan O'Brien
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

The lynchpin of your quote appears to be the denigration of the inconstancy of humanity in favor of the interaction between the interlocutor and God. If you take out the God part, the quote doesn't make any sense except as a collection of flat commands, lacking an explanatory rationale; the nature of a replacement quote will depend on what you want to replace God with in your secular version.

Perhaps the idealization of God in your Kieth quote could be replaced by the idealization of human potential? In which case, consider describing this interaction between Q and Picard in the episode "Hide and Q", from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:42 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you just use it without the last sentence?

That might be a possibility. I might also be able to change "your God" to "your conscience." I'd prefer not to alter the quote, though, so a new quote might be better.
posted by asnider at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2012

I think it's fine to use the quote ending with the sentence "Give the world the best you've got anyway"--I don't think the last sentence adds that much to the message. Don't change the actual wording of the last sentence!

I have no idea who Kent M. Kieth (or Keith?) is. Is this someone famous in your area, or an alumnus of your school? I'm not sure why his words would be more meaningful to your students than words you came up with yourself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:49 PM on April 17, 2012

Hello, I am a dumbass, I just Googled and this is Kent Keith.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2012

Whoops, I am threadsitting, but maybe his updated version of the Paradoxical Commandments might suit you better?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:51 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

“The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:32 PM on April 17, 2012

William Blake- "There are things that are known and thing that are unknown, and in between, there are doors."

William Blake never said this. That was Ray Manzarek.
posted by iotic at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2012

Sorry it's the mobile version, but 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will has some particular gems. It's missing my personal favorite, from Timequake: "You were sick, but now you're well, and there's work to do."
posted by Etrigan at 4:02 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always liked this one from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Plus, you might find something on Motivational and Inspirational Quotes Collection.
posted by angiep at 4:08 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding angiep's Margaret Mead quotation. I actually came in here intending to post it!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:16 PM on April 17, 2012

It's on the list Ertigan links to, but this Kurt Vonnegut quote is the first thing I thought of:
Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you've got to be kind.
Of course, that might not work for the corollary reason of swearing.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:31 PM on April 17, 2012

I always like the simple message that Garrsion Keillor signs off with at the end of each episode of The Writer's Almanac.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

It's a little short, but I think it's a very appropriate thing to say to college graduates, especially college graduates who have probably gone deaf listing to long-winded speeches about possibilities, embarkations, and thresholds.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:52 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have no idea who Kent M. Kieth (or Keith?) is.

I actually didn't have much familiarity with Keith until I saw this quote. My boss found the quote and liked the sentiment but wanted something less religious and ideally from someone who is more well known.
posted by asnider at 9:08 PM on April 17, 2012

According to this website, the last two lines about God weren't in the original version of the Paradoxical Commandments anyway, so you could still use the quote without those two lines, and be true to Kent M. Keith's original sentiment.
posted by batonthefueltank at 12:13 AM on April 18, 2012

Delete the parts in brackets:

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
[We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?]

[Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.]

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

[We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.]
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson from her book "A Return to Love"
posted by Neekee at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2012

Lots of great quotes here, folks. My boss ended up using another quote that she found on her own, but I'm looking for excuses to use some of the ones you've all shared!
posted by asnider at 10:04 PM on May 22, 2012

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