At the request of our students, we were happy to invite Hunter Lovins to deliver the keynote address at the 2011 Bren School of Environmental Science & Management Commencement exercises. What an inspired choice. At the Bren School, we were already well aware of Hunter’s important and visionary work and her standing as a highly sought-after consultant. Some of our faculty members had met her previously. But you can never really know how a resume as impressive as Hunter’s will translate into a speech delivered from a grand dais set above a large crowd. Will it be arcane, obtuse, self-indulgent? Will the speaker connect with the audience? Will her words resonate? Will those who listen be moved and inspired? We needn’t have wondered ― or worried.
In the couple of hours that Hunter was at Bren before the event began, she wandered here and there, treating everyone she met to her frank gaze and engaging openness. Eventually, she took a seat at a student chair-desk in the corner of a noisy room, and, as faculty robed for the ceremony, jotted down some thoughts for her talk. It is always telling when someone can draft a speech in a few minutes, in pencil, on a couple of pieces of notebook paper. It usually indicates a person whose message, mission and life are in unison and emanating from a familiar and deeply felt foundation of beliefs and experiences. That was the case with Hunter. Her talk was fierce. It was fiery. And it was funny. As she moved through it, she integrated her tremendous knowledge of sustainability issues in plain language from which the last obfuscating flourish had been removed. Her message resounded: Have courage, be willing to fail, step up, follow your own path, do something that fuels your passion and feeds your soul. Don’t settle for a job, but rather, pursue your calling. Embrace life. Do it now.
The audience was moved, and the standing ovation was instant and spontaneous. We really could not have asked for a better, more engaged speaker or one whose values and message were more in line with the Bren School. It set the tone for a great day.
Jennifer Purcell Deacon
Assistant Dean of Development
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
University of California Santa Barbara