Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Commencement Address To The Class of 2013

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This month, many of our country's youth will be experiencing one of the great rites of passage: college graduation.

All across our great land, young men and women, many of them hung over in conditions ranging from "Y'know, I could use another hour or so of sleep" to "Dear God, if you are a God of mercy, please kill me now," are gathering in college stadiums and auditoriums to receive their degrees.

But first, they have to sit through another hallowed tradition: the commencement address. Writers, poets, politicians, celebrities and other luminaries will stand before a sea of fresh, eager young faces and impart the wisdom they've learned over the years (or, in the case of some of the celebrities, in rehab).

And, once again, I'm not there.

Astonishing, I know. After all these years, no one has asked your Humble Columnist to deliver a commencement speech. As I pointed out the first time I made note of it in these very pages in 2000, there may be greater injustices in this world, but I can't think of any right now. I had a speech all ready, back then, and I've been working on it over the years. So, without further ado, here's my updated commencement speech for the class of 2013:

"Students and faculty of Ottsamata University, parents, friends, homeboys, besties, entourages, baby-mamas and assorted hangers-on, welcome. It's truly an honor to be invited to give the commencement speech here at good old Ottsamata U.

I know some of you out there in the crowd have big dreams. Congratulations. Dreams are good. But here's the bad news: Big dreams don't make you special. Everybody's got dreams. You need to actually do something to make them happen. Dream, then plan, then carry out the plan. Whatever you're doing in the meantime to put food on the table and a roof over your head, do at least two concrete things every single day to work that plan and bring you closer to your dream.

Will that guarantee that your dreams come true? No. Nothing will. What makes dreams come true is a combination of hard work and dumb luck. You can only control one of those. What all that effort will guarantee is that you don't end your life regretting that you never even tried.

You get better at anything by doing it with people who are much better at it than you are. This applies to most human endeavors: music, sports, writing, sex. The only exception I can think of is gunfighting.

In a world of more than 7 billion people, a certain percentage are going to be jerks. You cannot change that. You cannot change them. Don't try. As a wise person once wrote on the Internet, you are not the Jerk Whisperer.

Always remember: Freedom and democracy are not for the wimpy, faint of heart, or thin-skinned. Your right to freedom of speech is not being denied if someone calls your ideas (or you) chuckle-headed. Especially if they (or you) are.

Smart people know how much they don't know. Absolute certainty, without even that tiny seed of doubt that causes someone to search out evidence or proof, is one of the hallmarks of the complete blockhead.

Don't listen to people who tell you not to be angry. There are things worth being angry about. Ignorance, injustice, oppression - these things deserve your anger. But anger is like fire: It needs to be harnessed and directed. Fire in a boiler drives an engine or heats a building. Fire left undirected and uncontrolled will burn the place down. Direct your anger like a blowtorch. And, like any tool, put it down when you're not working.

You want to find love? Don't look for it. Don't even think about looking for it. Need is not an aphrodisiac. Work on being awesome. Do something or learn something that makes you light up inside. That light will draw people, and love will find you. And if it doesn't ... you still end up being awesome.

In conclusion, always remember that just because I don't always follow my own advice doesn't mean it's not good.

May you all find love, and may you all be awesome. Good luck."

5 comments:

Fran said...

Now THAT'S a commencement speech I wish I'd heard, back in the day!

Tom Quinn said...

Lovely: wise, funny, and -- best of all -- short!

Celine said...

"The only exception I can think of is gunfighting."

AKA "Old swordsmen get to be that way by being VERY GOOD."

Matt Billock said...

Excellent points, and something I hope to impress upon my children - genius is free, action is priceless.

JD Rhoades said...

Matt: well said. Consider it stolen.