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Advice to Graduates.

by Dear Jon
May 10, 2002

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Sort 138_Dear Jon-Advice to Graduates. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

It's graduation time for many college students. What advice would you give them in a commencement address?


Dear BM,

My first piece of advice is for college graduates: 95% of all commencement addresses are completely inane. Commencement speakers don't care about the graduates, they care about looking and sounding as though they deserved the invitation to speak. Elected officials and political figures inevitably abuse commencement addresses as an opportunity to stump their platform. One notable exception is Winston Churchill, but he does not appear at commencement ceremonies anymore.

For all you High School grads, going to the ceremony naked underneath the robe is not as funny in future years as you think it is at the time. Graduation is not the time to tell your chemistry teacher what you really think about him. All that does is confirm your own immaturity, and if you ever do grow up, you will remember that moment with burning regret as well.

To all you eighth graders, nothing gives the class clown empathy for his teachers like growing up and marrying one.

College graduates want jobs, high school graduates want college, and eighth-grade graduates want to make sure they have friends next year. Commencement addresses need to be crafted around those concerns and should never last longer than three minutes.

Here is a draft of my commencement speech for when I am ever asked.

To the Graduating Class of 2002:

Congratulations. You have just completed one of life's initiations. Now it is up to you to continue to successfully negotiate the challenges that confront adults.

In just a few months you will discover that your liberal education has not prepared you for the cold realities of the working world. You will look back and wonder if you studied the right stuff. You will wonder why "nobody told you" about what life in a cold, cruel world was like.

This is because you have forgotten those times when people did try to tell you, but you would not listen because you were in a huff about being grounded. It is during these next few years that you will realize that your parents have lived meaningful experiences and have learned valuable lessons they can pass on to you.

The world cares about what you can contribute, not about your excuses. Certainly excuses can be borne by the collective strength of the taxpayers, but when it comes to you personally, no one is going to have the time to solve your problems for you because we will be too hard at work solving our own.

So, the excuses that appeal to the collective conscience of taxpayers, and the excuses that have padded your way to graduation as a self-esteem promotion even though you still don't know how to read, will no longer get you ahead.

You will discover that a diploma does not equal employability. You will discover that a diploma is no substitute for a personality that clicks with others so that they want you on their team. You will discover that a diploma is no substitute for gumption.

You will also discover that, in fact, quite apart from the socio-political brainwashing you have received by bleeding-heart faculty on the public dole, the reality is that nobody owes you anything except your dignity. The extent to which you keep your dignity is up to you; it is not up to this school, not up to your government, not up to anyone else.

So, go get 'em. And when you fail, when your dreams crumble and you realize that life is neither fair nor benevolent, get up and go to work anyway. Smile anyway. Let the car shift in front of you anyway, and give away your space in the grocery line. When you decided to pierce your tongue, you thought this business about being cheerful and considerate of others was corny. It isn't corny at all. It is maturity. You just might find that your consideration for others will come back to you in a life worth living. Good luck.

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