Singer, songwriter, and legendary performer Bruce Springsteen, whose best-selling autobiography Born to Run provides an intimate portrait of the inner struggles and triumphs of one of America’s most beloved musical icons, addressed the Class of 2024 at Boston College’s First Year Academic Convocation on September 10, offering his perspectives on education, personal relationships, democracy, and rock and roll to students who participated in the live webcast.
Springsteen's memoir, which was shared summer reading for the class, was published in 2016 to critical acclaim for his candid exploration of family, faith, personal battles, and his relentless pursuit of musical perfection, providing an unobstructed view of his life’s journey from a poor upbringing in Freehold, N.J., to international acclaim as a 20-time Grammy winner, Academy Award recipient, and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree. He and his wife, Patti Scialfa, are the parents of three children, including their son Evan, a 2012 Boston College alumnus.
At First Year convocation, Springsteen urged students to "absorb every day" of their experience at Boston College.
“Here in this place, you will not neglect the life of your mind," Springsteen said. "I missed that my first time around and I had to do my best to make up for it on my own. I had to seek my teachers and my mentors in libraries and on the street. It works, but I was not able to immerse myself in a place entirely dedicated to learning and I wish that I had. What you’re about to embark upon will be the greatest adventure of your young life. You can waste it. You can half-ass your way through it. Or you can absorb every day of what you are experiencing and come out on the other end an individual of expanded vision, of intellectual vigor, of spiritual character and grace, fully prepared to meet the world on its own terms. To be young in this beautiful and accommodating city and to be engaged in the life of this school is a great, great privilege.”
Watch a video of the event below.
During the summer, all first-year students received Springsteen’s book and a reflection guide to help examine the themes raised in Born to Run—family dynamics, personal relationships, addressing adversity, and setting and fulfilling aspirations—and how they might intersect with their own lives.
“At Boston College, we have long understood from the Jesuits about the importance of engaging students in a conversation that encourages their growth intellectually, socially, and spiritually,” said Executive Director of Student Formation Michael Sacco. “The format of the conversation can vary, but the aim remains to encourage students to be attentive to their experiences and reflective of their meaning, with the hope that this will help them discern their role in the world.
“Through his songs, Bruce Springsteen has been such a conversation partner to his audience, masterfully portraying the American experience through lyrics that inspire reflection about our world, our families, our jobs, our struggles, and our relationships. But in his memoir, Bruce reveals the conversation he had with himself as he approached many of his life's crossroads. In doing so, Bruce shares how attentiveness, contemplation, and authenticity played a key role in his personal growth and honing his immense talents. Each BC student brings a unique set of talents, and reading Bruce’s story will give them an invaluable perspective as they begin their formation at Boston College.”
First launched in 2004 as a formative experience and unifying event for all incoming students, the First Year Academic Convocation has featured award-winning authors ranging from Ann Patchett (Run) and Colum McCann, (Let the Great World Spin) to political leaders Barack Obama (Dreams From My Father) and John McCain (Lives of Moral Leadership). Considered the signature academic event of freshman year, the convocation has become a beloved BC tradition that melds the University’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage with its commitment to the liberal arts and formative education.
Traditionally, authors of the summer reading selection appear at First Year Convocation in Conte Forum; this year's event was moved to a virtual format because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Through his songs, Bruce Springsteen has long been such a conversation partner to his audience, masterfully portraying the American experience through lyrics that inspire reflection about our world, our families, our jobs, our struggles, and our relationships . . . Each BC student brings a unique set of talents, and reading Bruce’s story will give them an invaluable perspective as they begin their formation at Boston College.”
Born to Run has been lauded by critics for its frankness and eloquence, written in the authentic voice of a tenacious son of New Jersey who is considered the greatest songwriter of his generation and the poet of the American experience. NPR described the book as a “virtuoso performance,” the New York Times called it “frank and gripping” and “intensely satisfying,” while Rolling Stone magazine described it as “an utterly unique, endlessly exhilarating, last-chance power drive of a memoir.”
Following its release, Springsteen read from the book and shared personal reminiscences in “Springsteen on Broadway,” which ran for more than a year and received a special Tony Award.
His appearance at Boston College was his first and only college visit.
University Communications | September 2020