Why I’m not invited to give Commencement speeches


Dear 2013 College Graduates,

Congratulations!  You have come a long way to earn your degrees.  You should be proud of yourself!   {Pause for Applause.}

But not too proud.  Because college is a lot of fun.  You did great and you made your families proud.  But you also had a lot of fun and you avoided real life for four, or more, years.  College is much, much more fun than real life, which sadly, you will now be forced to join.  Unless you go on to Grad School, which is just a little bit harder form of fun. 

Now you are a graduate, and the world is your oyster.  But the oceans are warming and the oysters’ habitat is changing.  You can’t find the oysters where they used to be.  You may find yourself digging a hole for no reward, no oysters, and certainly no pearls.  You will have to change how you approach the world.  Perhaps you don’t want to search for oysters.

You are now armed with a piece of paper against the onslaught of unemployed and underemployed.  I hope you have some experience.  That’s the biggest paradox of all.  Everybody wants you to have experience.  But how can you get it if they are unwilling to employ people without experience?    Thankfully there are internships, which many of you have toiled under.  Internships are some sort of new world, white-collar, indentured servitude work without pay.   You paid your time.  Now, you’re a graduate and you are ready to get paid.   Good luck.   You’ll need it.  {Pause, no applause.}

The job market is a disaster.   I wouldn’t want to be graduating and moving into the work force right now.  I’m sorry to tell you, but I’m going to tell you the truth.  It’s hard.  When I went to college, in the last century, I thought I would get my degree and get a good job and that would be that.  That was not that.  And that will not be that for you either.  I graduated in the 1999, long before The Great Recession, when people could get jobs.  There were many jobs to be had.  It was a sweet heady time in America, before the Internet Bubble or the Housing Boom.  That time has long since passed.      

You will have to make your own jobs now.  You have to be prepared to work harder than you ever had before.  You might fail, you might get fired.  You might find yourself somewhat unprepared for full time work.  College does not prepare you for that at all.   College does not prepare you for paying the real bills that adults have either.  You don’t have to pay your student loans while you’re still in school!  Start preparing yourselves for that now.  That 6 months forbearance goes by pretty quick.  Then you are stuck with monthly bill for much longer than you can imagine.  Much Longer.   That was something I wish someone has told me sooner.  But then again, I’d do it all over again.  Student loans and all.

If I could do anything, I’d go back to college.  Knowledge is power and learning is fun!   There are days that I wish I was writing a paper and not making dinner and helping my second grader do her new math homework.  I long for the days of lab coats and measuring acids and bases, not olive oil and cups of juice.  But that time has passed for me, and now for you too.  You are no longer an undergrad.  You are a college fucking graduate!  Congratulations!  Good Luck!  Beware!  {No applause, long drawn out pause.}

I’m not sure where this world is going.  I’m not sure what a college degree can get you.  But you need one and now you have one.  You have leveled up!  {Pause for nerdy laughter.}

I tell all school-aged children to go to college.  The world is a scary place and college gives you a place to start.  College gives you time to decide what you want to do, not just have to do whatever you can find.  The way things are going, I don’t know how my children will pay for college.  But I still want them to go, indentured servitude and all.  Education is the hope of the future.  The hope of our country.  We need MORE college graduates.   I hope that they, and now you, will create the new jobs we need.  I believe that you can!

The world is at your fingertips, knowledge flows through your iPads and android phones.   I hope you know what you want to do.   Now go and do it!  This is your time to fly.  Nobody is going to hold your hand or grade your tests with helpful or hurtful comments.  It’s up to you now.  You’ve had four years of training, prepping, and primping.  Your real Life starts today.   No matter what you went through to get to this point, you will soon look back on today fondly and think, “Man, I was just a baby then.”  Whatever you have learned is not yet enough. 

Welcome to the Real World.   It sucks!  You should have stayed in college.



Filed under Essays

2 responses to “Why I’m not invited to give Commencement speeches

  1. Sure they will, plenty of people will grade you with hurtful comments.

  2. nirile

    Thomas Jefferson said, a measure of a democracy is its education system. Or something to that affect. Too bad most Americans don’t even know there was a much better democracy existing in this country before we colonized it. Woe to the country with the poor education system!!! America is the Louisiana of the world!!! (I say this with the most heart-felt love of Louisiana, but you know what I mean).

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