Sheryl Sandberg's Speech: Generation Gap or Media Gap?
Posted by Marjorie U. Sokoll
I love working with my colleague, Jocelyn Gordon, Marketing Communications Manager, who oversees the agency blogs. In addition to her excellent editing skills, she also has terrific insights and provides thoughtful feedback. So when I received an email from her with the subject line “Blog Idea,” I was intrigued.
I walked to her desk where she excitedly shared her idea of my writing a blog in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s 2016 commencement speech at U.C. Berkeley.
Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In. Before Jocelyn emailed me, I had already read an excerpt from her inspiring speech in the Boston Globe and shared it with friends on Facebook, with my colleagues in Services for Older Adults, and with members of our staff Spirited Aging group. I have to admit, I was confused as to what Jocelyn found so meaningful. The speech I read focused on the death of Sheryl’s beloved husband and what she had learned in death as to how to cope with adversity.
It was what Jocelyn said next that surprised me: “What about the fourth P?”
“The fourth P,” I replied, “I don’t remember reading about that!”
“Yes, pizza from Cheese Board!” Jocelyn exclaimed. “Or going to Kip’s,” she continued.
“Kip’s?” I said. “I didn’t read about Kip’s either, what’s that?”
Because Jocelyn is 27 years old and I am 61 years old, I wondered whether the fourth P and Kip’s were the proverbial “generation gap.” In my heart, I knew it was not; so then what was it?
Kip’s, Jocelyn explained, was a local U.C. Berkeley bar, referenced by Sheryl when she spoke about how gratitude and appreciation are essential for increasing a person’s resilience to cope with the inevitable challenges in our lives. So essential, Sheryl shared in her speech, that she made a New Year’s resolution to write down three moments of joy before going to bed each night. She encouraged the graduates to try this practice: “Start tonight when you have so many fun moments to list – although maybe do it before you hit Kip’s and can still remember what they are.”
I realized that Jocelyn and I had been reading two very different versions of the same speech, each targeted for an age demographic. The version I read I assume was targeted for an older readership, whereas the version Jocelyn read was targeted for a younger readership. It turns out that Jocelyn initially saw posts about the commencement speech on social media. Her friends were sharing the video from a variety of sources and quoting different parts in their reposts.
“A commencement address is meant to be a dance between youth and wisdom,” Sheryl said. However, in the excerpted version I read, many of the references to youth overcoming adversity were not included. Here are just a few examples: someone writing on you with a Sharpie when you fall asleep at a party, struggles with grades, achieving a Facebook or Google internship, death of a mother, a grandmother’s struggles, difficulty at a first job, boyfriend breakups, Sheryl’s divorce in her 20s, and swiping someone to the left (I Googled that one… it means to break up with someone!).
In the address, Sheryl told the class of 2016 what she did to overcome the adversity she faced after the death of her husband and the wisdom she gained from the experience. She turned to the work of psychologist Martin Seligman that shared how to build resilience by challenging the three Ps:
- Personalization – challenging the belief that when something tough happens to us we are at fault
- Pervasiveness – challenging the belief that this terrible thing will affect all aspects of our life
- Permanence – challenging the belief that we will be sad forever; that we will always feel this way
- And the fourth P (added by Sheryl) – when all else fails and you just need comfort, eat pizza from Cheese Board!
Just as surely as Jocelyn related to the references above, so do I, because to quote Annie Lamott in This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite, “We contain all the ages we have ever been.”
Ageism, based on a person’s age, is typically associated with older people but can also be directed toward young people. Our society is becoming ever more segregated by age. I feel profoundly grateful that here at JF&CS, I come into regular contact with younger colleagues like Jocelyn and enjoy meaningful and heartfelt conversations with colleagues in our Spirited Aging group who range in age from 21-78 years old.
It was wonderful to have this rich conversation with Jocelyn, enabling us to share our common humanity. And that transcends age.
Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, Director of Spirituality and Aging, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections. Marjie also provides oversight for the JF&CS Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program, spiritual support for the JF&CS Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support Program, and is a founding partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health. Marjie earned degrees in sociology and social work from Boston University and Tel Aviv University respectively, a graduate degree in counseling from Northeastern University, and holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education.