2023 Stanford Math Department Commencement Speech
Listening to your address and your discussion with Steven Strogatz, I found myself thinking about my own early feelings about math. I resisted math as a child, but at several times, a teacher took me aside and told me they thought I would be good at it. Their confidence in me made me rethink my own lack of confidence in myself. This spark of confidence brought me back to math. Confidence grew with success and eventually helped me believe that if something is difficult at first, I will get it. The feeling of "getting it," when things all seem to fall into place after starting out as a big mess, filled me with joy, surprise, and even laughter. I felt, then and now, that the difference between being able to "
"get" math and and not is more due to confidence than ability.
I am very grateful to those teachers, all of whom are gone.
Being successful opened up opportunities to study at university, and later, to find work. In school, I began to feel connected to the great mathematicians of history, my professors, and the more advanced (and probably more talented) students. Later, I enjoyed being amongst colleagues in math and related fields. I was just grateful to have a place amongst them, and to get paid to work on those things that filled me with joy and laughter.
Define ego ?
Thank you for this nice commencement address.