In 2000, Anna Quindlen wrote a speech that she intended to present as the commencement address at Villanova University. Although political pressure led to her not delivering it in person, she shared the already prepared written version of the address with students who requested it. The address emphasizes the importance of real life over work. Quindlen recommends to the new graduates that they keep a close eye on the things that matter the most. She does not state that work is unimportant, but she encourages each person not to lose sight of their own uniqueness. Overall, she emphasizes being present in the moment, and taking full advantage of each day that is offered.
Quindlen notes that some elements of her position are not fashionable. In particular, she emphasizes that each person attend to their own soul, or what she calls “the life of your heart.” Among her specific recommendations are appreciating specific, sensory elements of nature, such as waves and the flight of birds, and how babies learn about the world.
The importance of generosity, community, and love are emphasized. Rather than privilege working for money or to achieve possessions, Quindlen recommends viewing love as a valued kind of work. She mentions health issues several times, and a trauma that changed her attitude toward life. She recommends seeing life as a journey rather thanfocusing on the destination. At the end, through an anecdote about a homeless man on Coney Island, she urges students to see that a classroom can be anywhere.