What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Reporter: What a simple thought. Be kind. The man giving that advice, george saunders, syracuse university professor, gifted writer. And now,... See More
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Reporter: What a simple thought. Be kind. The man giving that advice, george saunders, syracuse university professor, gifted writer. And now, with this graduation speech, an internet superstar. Do the best you can, err in the direction of kindness. Reporter: I was a huge fan of saunders' work. His pose, is crystal and packed with empathy. And then came that speech. A few weeks later, "the new york times" printed it. And then, it took off. Viewed more than 1 million times. Tweeted, blogs, facebook. Suddenly, kindness was hot. My girls are still a few years away from college. But I hope his words resonate with them as much as me. A graceful lesson for life. there he is right now. Welcome, george saunders. nice to have you here. Thank you very much. Perfect, george. It is. You're the man of the hour. George is celebrating today, too. This has been an incredible year for you. Your book "tenth of december" shoots to the of the best seller list at the beginning of the year. The speech goes viral. We found out yesterday you got nominated for the national book award. That's wonderful. That's great. Yeah. Tell us about the commencement speech. I read that you didn't actually know the power of it from the first reaction. No. It was a nice reaction. But you know, as often when you're doing a thing like that, you're focused on the three people asleep. So, it was a nice reaction. And I went home and thought, I'm done. Now, I can get through my summer. And a couple months later, it kind of took off. It completely blew up. Where did it spring from? I know you sit down to write it. And there's something crystallizes. What is that? In this case, I had done the middle school graduation for our daughter when she was graduating. So, I had that speech in mind. I thought, I'll just crib from that. But I couldn't find it. And so, I thought, well, I'll re-create it from memory. Part of it was, I had given a speech similar to a crowd that had both my daughters and my wife and all their friends. It was an intimate, affectionate, really frank speech. That's where it carried over. In the speech, you talked about a little boy, I guess in seventh grade. The victim of bullying. Josh did this great piece earlier in the show about amber. And you weren't even one of the bullies. But the fact that somehow you didn't do more suffered your entire life. I was pretty nice. I tried to be nice to her. When it got too hard, I did what we all do, which is diplomatically withdraw. I wasn't mean at all. But I think the reason it stuck with me is that was the first time I was ever away of betraying the best part of myself. And I thought, yeah. I'm like jesus. And then, in that moment, just sort of for reasons of basic self-preservation, I took a step away from that part. And I said, I'll be back in a bit. I'll be back when it gets easy. And then, I think maybe it sticks with you the first time -- a lot of the e-mails i got were, I have one in my life, too. Maybe when we do that first little betrayal, it sticks with us. I printed out the speech. I have an almost 12-year-old and almost 9-year-old. It resonated with them. It's a life lesson, I think that not only college graduates can take, but everyone. It's just words to live by. Full of hope. It's easier to get kinder as you get older. As you get weak. Kindness is contagious. You smile at somebody on the street, and all of a sudden, they just -- it keeps going. George, thank you for your great story. Thank you. Please read the speech, everybody.
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