This Scientist Has Stellar Advice For College Graduates

"Role models are overrated." -NdGT

Neil deGrasse Tyson never fails to inspire.

The astrophysicist recently gave the commencement address to the graduating class of 2015 at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He received an honorary doctorate for his professional accomplishments, before he imparted some words of wisdom onto the crowd.

He talked about the importance of scientific literacy, being an educated voter, and while the structure of higher education ends, learning never does.

Here are the top 10 lessons we learned from NdGT's speech:

1. Your college GPA truly doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

"Your grades, whatever is your GPA, rapidly becomes irrelevant in your life. I cannot begin to impress upon you how irrelevant it becomes. Ask anybody just a few years older than you, "When was the last time someone asked you your GPA?" And they will have long forgotten, because in life, they aren't going to ask you your GPA. They're going to ask you, "Are you a hard worker?" "Are you a problem solver?" "Are you committed?" ... 

If a GPA means anything, it's what you were in that moment, and it so does not define you for the rest of your life."

2. Be informed about what is happening around you.

"The most dangerous people in a free society are those who don't know... (By the way, it's okay to not know. This is what school is for. That's okay!) But if you don't know and think you do know, and have power over legislation that would affect others, that is dangerous. Those are the signs of the end of an informed democracy."

3. Whether you know it or not, science really does matter.

"Science matters. Other subjects matter too, I'm just sayin'. Science matters in the following way:

Think about this: Cavemen and women, they had clean air, fresh water, their food was free-range, yet their life expectancy was 35. Something else matters that improves your life expectancy than just the search for clean air and clean water. There's more going on in our lives brought to you by innovations in science and technology that improves your health, your wealth, your well-being. Just consider that before you start saying, 'I don't like science, I don't want science.' Well, move the hell back into the cave and we'll go to your funeral before you turn 36."

4. Politicians--even corrupt ones--were elected by the people. Voters have to share the blame if they don't like where things are going.

"It had become a pastime to blame politicians for the ills of the world. I understand the urge to do that, I get that. But at the end of the day, the politician is a representative of an electorate. I go to Washington, but I don't beat the politicians over the head. They're duly elected officials.

If you have an issue with politicians it's because you have an issue with your fellow citizens who put them there. So if there is a politician who is sure the Universe is 6,000 years old, it's because there are people walking among us who think that."

5. There's only so much you can argue with.

"As an educator it is my duty to teach people about the methods and tools of science, how and why it works. ...

The extent to which you cherry-pick science for your own philosophies just because you didn't like the result... When does that stop? What's gonna happen? You gonna say 'I'm gonna repeal the law of gravity 'cause I gained 10 pounds last month'? Where does that stop?

The laws of physics affect us all. Objective truths are true whether or not you believe in them."

6. Be your own role model.

"I think on some level, role models are overrated. 

I will tell you why: Growing up in the Bronx ... had I required as a prerequisite that another black man from the Bronx had become an astrophysicist for me to become one, I'd still be in the Bronx. If you require a role model who looks just like you to be something you wanna be and you can't find one, is that a reason to not be what you wanna be? No!"

7. Calm down; humans are actually really insignificant.

"The Universe is bigger than you are. That sounds obvious but some people don't really know that."

8. Our fate is determined by our intelligence.

"Do not forget that Earth is really good at killing you. Over ninety-seven percent of all the species on Earth that ever existed are now extinct because of Earth. So we think of Earth as a haven, but it's actually out to kill us every opportunity it gets. It's our ingenuity, in spite of that fact, that prevents it."

9. Don't take crap from the government sitting down.

"We used to say, 'We're the leaders of the free world here in America. In Russia, they're not free. They have to show their IDs everywhere they go. That country spies on their own citizens.'

I remember saying that about the Soviet Union. There are cameras everywhere in the streets, and I don't know what that means. If the KGB had the surveillance that America has today on its own citizens, they would totally dig that back in the Cold War. 

So I don't know what has happened to the world. But you're up next in the batter's box. It's up to you. If it's okay with you that everybody's looking at you; alright. It's not okay with me. It's not okay with people who remember what it really meant to live in a free society."

10. Be realistic about what you require of others.

"We live in a world where not everyone has the urge to help others. Okay, you want to do it all by yourself, for yourself, and sort of require that other people help themselves. I'm reminded of a saying that went around for awhile: 'We need people to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.'

And then I think about that, and that works... sometimes. ... It is OK to encourage others to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. But if you do, just remember that some people have no boots."

View the speech in its entirety here:

[H/T: Mic]

[Header image: eskaylim/iStock]