Graduation is here once again. And, as is tradition, none of my alma maters have requested that I give a commencement speech. I either didn’t impress them enough while I was there or haven’t impressed much them since then.
Most likely both.
Still, I have this forum, if you’ll allow me, to at least vicariously live the moment of standing in front of hundreds of total strangers giving a speech that everyone just wants to end quickly so they can get on with the more important matters at hand. Namely, open house cake.
This is an important moment in the graduation ceremony, when someone who has lived a little while (or a long time) longer than the students he or she is addressing, gives them guidance and hope as they sweat in an overheated gym. All of them have shared the hopes and dreams, and do so even as they await to part once more, for good.
Mainly, they hope there is cake and dream of how it’ll taste with a little dab of ice cream on the side.
So, in order to allow everyone to get to their cake sooner than later, let us begin.
(Ed. Note: To get to the cake that much faster, I have taken the liberty of editing the 10 page speech down to its core message. You’re welcome.)
To the Class of 2012:
A short anecdote of when I was in school that is slightly embarrassing, but funny. (Laughter.)
A second, slightly longer story of how that event shaped my life after graduation that almost, but doesn’t quite, connect with the audience. (Crickets chirp.)
A quick poke at the parents, just to let them know we haven’t forgotten them or their contributions to the students’ lives. And a reminder that they now feel that much older.
A quick quote from Shakespeare, Socrates, or an obscure scientist that attempts to sum up the universal feeling of not being sure where this is going. (Blank stares.)
A quote by Douglas Adams that contradicts that previous quote. (Some laughs.)
Failed attempt to have a joke at the school administration’s expense. Slightly funnier comment that I probably won’t be asked back now.
A story about a “friend,” and what he (or she) did after school that actually made the rest of us look bad, but make it sound as if we were all really impressed. Slightly awkward comment made, muttered under breath, about how we all knew that would be the case and why none of us will friend that person on Facebook.
Slight feeling that I’ve lost the audience and try to bring the energy back up by quoting a completely misappropriate song lyric that I clearly don’t understand the meaning behind. (Graduates laugh at how wrong this is. I think I’ve actually been funny.)
A story about another “friend,” that is nothing more than a veiled attempt to hide the fact that it’s me and some trouble I got into back in school. A quick reworking of the event so that, at the very last moment, it seems like a positive and not the negative that it actually was. Nor any mention of how that event continues to haunt my life.
A quote from my favorite movie of all time that came out before these kids were born. (Man, you’re old.)
Nearly breaking into tears at the recollection of my own family and how it was when we graduated. (Awkward. Just… awkward.)
Ask for water. Pause for two minutes while they find a bottle.
Collect yourself, man. Everyone’s watching you.
A list of things I hope they’ve learned from this speech, including the fact they all need to go out and watch that movie I just quoted a moment ago. Really. It’s a classic.
One final story about the one really great teacher I had, that is actually an amalgamation of many teachers that really did try their best, despite the nearly overwhelming odds, to prepare me to be impressive out in the real world. And a quick side note that I apparently haven’t impressed them enough.
A hasty “Thank you” to everyone up to and including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for having me here today that completely trails out…
Someone decides this has been going on long enough and starts the applause in the middle of a last quote, the brilliance of which is now lost to the polite clapping of a few hundred people who really just want to know where the cake is.