'Wait, What?' (And Other Big Questions)

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

We talk to a college dean whose graduation speech on asking the right questions and living a full life has gone viral way beyond campus.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan. (Courtesy Harvard)
Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan. (Courtesy Harvard)

When the Dean of Harvard’s School of Education gave a commencement speech last May, it went viral --far beyond the leafy campus of his Ivy League school. It’s been viewed online well over eight million times. He’s gotten thank-you letters from all over --pastors, students, teachers business execs and more. And all he really said was, ‘always ask questions.’ This hour On Point, asking questions and why we need them now, maybe more than ever.


James Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Author of the new book, “Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions.” (@DeanJimRyan)

From The Reading List

Harvard Graduate School of Education: Good Questions — "You may be worried about the world that you are about to re-enter. And I’m here to tell you: That’s not a bad idea. (Can I have some applause for that?) In all seriousness, disparities and injustices based on income, wealth and race continue to weaken the fabric of our world, our nation and of our communities. Intolerance and authoritarianism appear, by some measures, on the rise both at home and abroad. Our world seems to be getting hotter and less hospitable, both politically and environmentally, though it was truly heartening to learn that, as of this year, the lovable manatee is no longer an endangered species. Redemption, it seems, is still possible."

CBS News: Harvard dean on book inspired by his popular graduation speech — "Many college students are just weeks away from graduation. Last year, James Ryan, the dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education, gave a commencement speech that introduced the world to his five essential questions in life."

The 74: Harvard Education School Dean Jim Ryan Talks School Funding, Vergara and Ed Research — "One of the things that I admire the most about our faculty and our students is that they’re both passionate but also open to persuasion. I would characterize the faculty in particular as being less interested in politicized debate. There are obviously disagreements, but the disagreements are about what the research shows or what the evidence shows."


James Ryan's Five Questions +1

Wait, What?

I Wonder?

Couldnt We At Least?

How Can I Help?

What Truly Matters?

And Did You Get What You Wanted From This Life, Even So?

Read An Excerpt Of "Wait, What?" By James Ryan

Watch The James Ryan Commencement Speech That Inspired The Book

This program aired on April 12, 2017.


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