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Ballet maestro Mikhail Baryshnikov to class of 2013: Be ‘better,’ not ‘best’

Edward Cox/The Daily Northwestern

World-renowned ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov addresses the class of 2013 on Friday morning at Ryan Field. Baryshnikov told graduating seniors to try to "better" at what they do, not necessarily the "best."

Patrick Svitek, Summer Editor

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Ballet virtuoso Mikhail Baryshnikov challenged the class of 2013 this morning to think of success on its own terms as it sets out into the post-graduate world.

“Do not make your goal to be the best. ‘Best’ is a label. It’s something someone else decides for you,” Baryshnikov told more than 1,000 graduating seniors at Ryan Field. “‘Better’ is more personal. It’s a process, and in my opinion, ‘better’ is something more interesting than ‘best.'”

Speaking at Northwestern’s 155th commencement ceremony, Baryshnikov stressed NU’s new alumni “don’t have to be brilliant 24/7” but should continue to pose tough, often unanswerable, questions about their surroundings and who they are.

“The more you see life as complicated and full of contradictions, the better you will understand yourself,” he said.

(Photo gallery: Commencement 2013)

Baryshnikov took a few breaks from his introspective speech to riff on the quarter system, NU’s late graduation date compared to other schools and Evanston winters, which he described as “not quite Siberia, but pretty close.”

Baryshnikov said his daughter Anna, a Communication junior, talked him into delivering the commencement address, and he solicited advice from President Bill Clinton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Check back with The Daily later today for more on the commencement ceremony.

Patrick Svitek

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