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Remember, You Can Always Go Back to School
It is graduation time again, time when we march millions upon millions of young people through a ceremony that has gone unchanged since the beginning of time, making them wear ridiculous clothes and waste several hours on a perfectly good afternoon all on the flimsy excuse that Grandma wants to see it.
It is a ceremony of completion, a ceremony of advancement, a ceremony of moving into the basement so you can "figure things out" before going on to Whatever Comes Next, six or seven years from now.
And if my own experience is any indication, it is a colossal bore, mostly because of the speakers.
The student speakers, of course, are all earnest and serious, exhorting their classmates to Be The Generation That Changes The World and assuring the adults that We Will Honor The Past While Marching Bravely Into The Future and acting, for the most part, as if someone is actually paying attention (in addition to Mom and Dad and Grandma.) The speech is about what you would expect from people who never missed a day and carried their homework in briefcases.
Then comes the headliner, the main event, the guest speaker, who often as not is the gasbag friend of someone on the board of trustees. He will exhort the class to Be The Generation That Changes The World By Honoring The Past While Marching Bravely Into The Future, by which time the last 30 rows of graduates will be sleeping. The rest will be making out, playing Texas Hold ’Em, or trying to stay awake by guessing which classmates are naked under their robes. The speech is about what you’d expect from a guy who is chairman of a widget company with which the aforementioned trustee wants to do business.
And then they hand out the party favors and everyone gets a picture taken with Grandma.
Not being in the widget business, I have never been asked to give a graduation speech. I’ve always wanted to, though. In fact, I have my speech pretty much put together. It goes like this:
Graduates, teachers, administrators, parents, Grandmas:
Let’s keep this short. By that I mean let’s skip the bushwa about changing the world and instead just accept the fact that the world so far seems to keep turning despite all we do to it, and if we’re lucky and we wise up about a few things, that will continue to be the case.
Now that’s out of the way, we can turn to more practical matters, such as advice for people who are being turned out into the world with plenty of education but not much in the way of clues. Here it is:
Watch the tire pressure. Don’t text when you can talk. If it’s addictive, be careful. You’re probably not the first person to do whatever it is you’re contemplating. Think twice about that tattoo. The people in the other cars don’t really care to hear your music. "Reality" shows are for dopes. Do good work. Be nice to each other. Watch your cholesterol. Smile and you’ll feel better. Don’t forget to play.
Above all, keep in mind that life is tough, and it does not get easier with experience, but it’s worth it. It really is.
Besides, if things get too difficult, you can always go back to school.
© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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