This past week, I had the great fortune to see some truly exceptional young men and women graduate from institutions of learning. I’m not big on ceremonies, but there’s just something so moving, such a sense of closure and optimism, that comes with graduations. Oddly enough, the events seemed tempered by some strange graduation speeches.
First, I saw a grown man talk about how we need to be cautious with all the changes that are coming up and to be especially careful with the Internet. I appreciate his concern because I have seen too many rogue titties floating across my Facebook page. I don’t care about how drunk you got, and I don’t think that trawling for Xanax online is a great idea. But at the same time, it seems bizarre to tell adults on the cusp of a new life stage to “Beware The Scary Internet.” I felt like I was transported back to 1998 and told to avoid a/s/ling in the AOL chatrooms. Embracing the future is basically the theme of graduation and dedicating a speech to exercising caution in the face of the scariness of the future seemed like an odd choice.
Then, I saw another grown man talk and “change” didn’t seem to be in his vocabulary. If I had to boil his speech down into three words, it’d be: “Don’t Question Authority.” If you only gave me two words, I’d have to say “Yay Authority!!” He was like a thin, silver-haired Cartman, squeaking at the sea of anxious, giddy graduates. Maybe I’m uppin’ the punx/keeping it real to a stupid extent, but seriously? You want to send people out into the world with the uplifting, heart-felt message of, “Don’t question authority”?
I don’t know, there’s enough scary shit out there right now that maybe something a bit more positive would have been great. I mean, if you’re nervous about getting a job, affording school, and finding anything meaningful in your life, then a speech dedicated to telling you that you should be scared about even more things doesn’t seem like the way to go, right? Who knows, I’ll never be asked to give a graduation speech, but here’s what I’d say in place of those dudes:
- There’s a decent chance you’re going to romanticize this part of your life. That’s cool and, given the number of teen/college comedies focusing on friendship, kegs, true love, and winning the basketball game, totally understandable. But don’t let it overshadow all you do next. You can do some really great things next.
- Embrace change. There’s a lot of new shit happening and that will never stop. Look, Benny Franklin was only certain about death and taxes and he was pretty smart ““ so even if you don’t trust me, trust him. And that’s awesome because in my limited experience plus what I’ve read, it looks like in the long run things change for the better.
- Be an active part of that change. If you want things changing for the better, get in there and work for it. Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life like so many gallons of Gatorade just waiting to be poured down some poor coach’s back (am I being relatable to the college/high school crowd now?). And look, there are limits to how involved anyone can be, so find what works for you and do it. Things aren’t going to get any better without your help and basically all high schools and universities are super pro-community involvement so just see your future dedication to change as an offshoot of that spirit of involvement.
- Having hope is crucial. Yes, your soul will be crushed three times a week and twice on Tuesdays, but without hope, there’s nothing. Hope for something better, hope for yourself and your community.
- To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies–God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” To quote him again, “Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” This fulfills my quote quota.
- If you can, get on the Internet because there are cool things there like info-graphics and entire books and so many people. Take advantage of this technology and while, yes, OK, use some discretion, and maybe don’t go balls out literally, do it figuratively. You can learn so much. It’s wildly cool.
- I am out of things but seven is a nice lucky number except for Brad Pitt.