Got big plans this weekend? Seems like everybody’s got a Mother’s Day celebration or a graduation party or a baby shower to go to this time of year, but this is the time of year that I feel sorry for those suckers who have to give graduation speeches. I know that’s a select few, but humor me.
Let’s take a quick poll. Who remembers a single word of what any speaker said at any one of your graduations?????? Bueller? Bueller? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You ain’t got a clue!
I mean, if you’re in that position, what do you say?
“Hey suckers, you be outta here!” (not exactly valedictorian material)
Or do you go with the tried and true, “Life is not a destiny. It’s a journey…” (I’m not so silently barfing over here!)
There are those who will go with the “We cannot know what lies before us but together we go out into the world to make it a better place because one person can make a difference…” (Yeah, if you’re Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Aretha Franklin, but you, Johnny, there in the front row, we just hope you are employed and quit picking your nose…)
Some overachiever types will probably think to quote somebody famous or share lyrics from a song: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration according to Thomas Edison” (Yeah, but just make sure your 99% is covered up by some good deodorant because nobody wants a B.O.-smelling genius in the house! And translate that as most of you are going to work 99% of your life so that you can live the 1% of your life that you get time off. Sorry. Just call me a dream killer.)
My personal faves are the ones that start off with, “It wasn’t that long ago that we came together as one in a little room with crayons, Kleenex, nap mats, and Mrs. Insert your kindergarten teacher’s name here with her denim jumper and comfortable shoes.” (Oh yes, that poor woman who had to wipe all our snot, pretend she liked the pictures we drew of rainbows and stick people with heads but no bodies, and probably went home to drink every night to keep her sanity who is now sitting in the audience shocked and amazed that some of you survived to see this day!)
Okay, so I mock the process, but not really. I get it. There’s a whole big world out there that has lots of possibilities for some and even more disappointment for others, and sometimes, it’s pretty damn hard to decipher who’s going to be left standing at the end of the decade. It’s even harder to put into words how some people will work their whole lives and have little to show for it, some will get famous but not be happy, and others will be content in their own little worlds living their own little lives. So what do you say?
Twenty years later, I still don’t know, but please don’t bore us old people. I know you should always say thank you to the people that got you there, and I know you can recount the memories of what makes all your classmates smile and maybe even a few of the people that know you, and I know you should tell people that things won’t always be easy but nothing in life is, and then you quote Billy Madison or break out in a flash mob of I’ve had the Time of my Life or you say “I hope this isn’t us!” and sing a bad rendition of Glory Days or you open up your robe and flash your shirt that says “She’s a Pepper. I’m a Pepper. Wouldn’tcha like to be a Pepper, too?” or maybe it should say “2060 or Bust” or in old-skool Footloose fashion, “2012 kicks A$$!”
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a serious occasion and all, but really, who the Hell is going to remember one word that was said? Unless, of course, you make them laugh… Because how many stories start off with “Remember when Sheri was talking about life being a journey?” No, they all start off with “Remember when Jerry ___________________. I laughed my ass off at that. I will never forget that as long as I live!”
That, my friends, is how it should be done in the world according to Bolton…
(P.S. – best of luck to my friend giving that speech this weekend…)