To paraphrase King Solomonís words, ďSpring is here, and the voice of the commencement speaker is heard in the land. Let him who is void of wisdom give heed, or just let him snooze while the imported orator at the podium drones on and on....Ē
History is not clear on when the first commencement speech was given, or who came up with the idea. The typical graduation ceremony is tedious enough without adding a speaker whose implied duty is to inspire the new graduates. Some commencement addresses have been noteworthy and memorable. Most are not. Can you remember who was the speaker at your high school or college graduation? Did you put his or her advice to good use in the succeeding years? Neither did I.
My high school graduation didnít have a speaker. We were lucky that we even bothered to stage a ceremony. It took place in a dinky little Pennsylvania town not far from where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. We had 16 graduates. The high point of the evening was when our pompous principal handed out our diplomas to the student at the end of the row and told him to pass each one down the line to its rightful owner. This meant by the time it reached us, our diploma had the fingerprints of maybe a dozen other people on it. Really uplifting.
The speaker at my college graduation was the former Philippine ambassador to the U.S. I clearly remember the best thing he said: ďIn closing ...Ē Thatís when a cheer went up and drowned out the rest of his speech.
To me, the best thing about a college graduation is the customary playing of Brahmsí Academic Festival Overture. Itís an old chestnut of a piece and lasts only 10 minutes, but it gradually builds to a resounding finish that makes me want to die for my country or my college or that well-rounded history major named Jenny who in four years never once gave me the time of day.
Each year at this time I awake to give thanks that Iíve not been chosen as a commencement speaker. Iím boring and bombastic enough to fill the bill, but Iíve never been important or distinguished in any worthwhile way, except to curse at people who carry on inane cell phone conversations within 60 yards of decent citizens.
Another drawback: Iíd have to find something worthwhile to tell the new graduates that they didnít already know. I donít even know how to program my cell phone or send a text message. Iím afraid to join Facebook or Twitter for fear Iíll libel someone. All I could do is set forth a few random ideas that might prove useful for the new graduates. Such as:
BECOME POLITICALLY ACTIVE, or at least well-informed about public officials and policies at all levels. Democratic government is a good
idea, but many of its servants Ė progressive and conservative alike Ė are incompetent, corrupt, greedy and intent on staying in power. The default attitude by citizens toward every governmental officer should be benign mistrust.
LEARN SPANISH. Whether we live in San Antonio or Hibbing, Minn., our nation is becoming bi-lingual. Each passing day, more products and TV channels are using Spanish words, ideas and customs. Which is okay by me. I like most of the Hispanics I meet. While youíre at it, you might also want to learn to speak some Chinese.
DONíT GAIN WEIGHT. In the next 20 years we will see an increasing prejudice against persons who are obese or even significantly overweight. Government at all levels may pass laws taxing fat folks for various reasons (good or bad), such as increasing health costs or raising liftoff requirements for airliners.
ASSUME THAT YOUíRE ALWAYS ON CAMERA. You almost certainly will be. As fear of terrorism and crime increase, public and private groups will take steps to ensure that everyone is kept under surveillance 24 hours a day. In time, this may also include mandatory cameras inside the home to record burglaries, spousal abuse, child molesting and failure to put the toilet seat down after use.
PREPARE TO SEE WATER GREATLY†INFLUENCE YOUR LIFE. Do not purchase an ocean-side home unless itís at least 30 feet above sea level. Each year you live, polar ice-cap melting will raise coastline tide readings. As global warming and world population increase, available fresh water will become scarcer. Water wars may become more than legal battles; nations may actually start shooting to determine who owns water rights.
BE OF GOOD CHEER. Keep smiling. Despite the worries that humankind faces, life brings just as many solutions as it does problems.
Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. He answers all emails sent to him at email@example.com.