Education

Rushdie Urges Emory Graduates To Be ‘Larger Than Life’

Graduates of Emory University look toward the main stage Monday as the private school held its 170th commencement.
Graduates of Emory University look toward the main stage Monday as the private school held its 170th commencement.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

An audio version of this report

Author Salman Rushdie on Monday advised Emory University’s new 4,572 graduates to “try not to be small. Try to be larger than life.”

That’s just one highlight from his 14-minute commencement speech, which vacillated from the standard to the controversial.

Rushdie, who is an atheist, also called on graduates to look beyond religion. 

”It’s shocking how many Americans swallow that old story,” he said.  ”Maybe you’ll be the generation that moves past the ancient fictions.”

And the famed 67-year-old author also apologized for the actions of his generation. 

“As for the mess we’ve made, you can change it. And I believe you’re going to,” Rushdie said. “I have a suspicion you’re better than us. You care more for the planet. You’re less bigoted, more tolerant.  And your ideals may hold up better than ours did.”

While some attending Emory’s 170th commencement thought Rushdie pushed the line more than he should have, graduate Matthew Stoiber said Rushdie’s words resonated with him.

“He embodies the message he wants to covey to the class–to be bold, to be skeptical,” Stoiber said. “And even though some of his comments may have upset people, I am kind of in favor of that. It gets the discussion going.”

Rushdie’s speech also concludes his decade-long term as Emory’s University Distinguished Professor.