By BEN R. WILLIAMS
Note: A friend of mine is having a small get-together for a few folks who graduated from college last year but weren’t able to have the full graduation experience due to the pandemic. He asked me if I would deliver a commencement speech. An edited version of that speech that is safe for print in a family newspaper follows below.
Greetings, graduates! Webster’s dictionary defines “college” as “a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing.” That definition may seem confusing, but then again, so is college.
College was invented in the early 1970s when people realized that it was way too easy to get a good job. Since then, tens of thousands of people have graduated from college. Some of them studied business or finance, while others studied fields that brought them joy and fulfillment. But no matter your major, one thing is certain: you’ll never forget your college experience. Because for the rest of your life, someone in the alumni office will call you every couple of months to shake you down for even more money.
Of course, college is about more than just studying. It’s about driving around in an old jalopy while wearing a raccoon fur coat and a straw boater. It’s about taking your best gal out for a cherry phosphate. It’s about disassembling the crusty old dean’s beloved 1914 Stutz Bearcat, reassembling it on the roof of the chemistry building, and then framing him for murder. You know; good, innocent fun.
But now you have graduated from college, and immediately following this speech, you will be members of the real world. Assuming you don’t go on to pursue a Master’s degree or a Ph.D, which I highly recommend because we’re on the cusp of either college loan forgiveness or the complete collapse of the system. Either way, the bill ain’t your problem anymore, so I encourage you to try to ride this thing out.
Many of you, I’m certain, are still trying to figure out what you’re going to do now that you’ve graduated from college. Will you pursue a career in your field? Possibly, unless you majored in interpretive dance. Will you make a lot of money? Possibly, unless you majored in interpretive dance. But whatever you end up doing, the important thing is that you pursue your passion, unless you majored in interpretive dance.
But I think you’ll agree that the most important thing from your college experience is this commencement speech. It’s a universal truth that students never forget their commencement speech, and they never forget their commencement speaker. Years from now, you’ll remember this entire speech verbatim. I still remember my commencement speaker. He had a hat on, and he talked about the Lutheran church or something. I tear up just thinking about it.
Of course, I realize that graduating is scary. Shortly after I graduated from college, our nation was rocked by a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis. And then a few years later, it happened again. And we’re probably due for another one. And so, over the course of your lives, you may find yourselves experiencing a dozen or more once-in-a-lifetime economic collapses. But just remember this: the connections you make will open many doors, and a good set of bolt cutters will open the rest of them.
Good luck out there, graduates! You’ll need it.