By Alex Berger
It is June and graduation ceremonies are in full bloom. Graduates are breathing a sigh of relief now that they have completed their grueling schooling and are segueing into their next stage of life.
Graduation is one of the five milestones of life. The others are birth, marriage, death and the day your student loan is finally paid.
I still remember my college graduation. I had to listen to a speaker rant about the responsibilities I now inherited, all of which I heard before, and it took him three hours to say it. I know I would be a great inspirational speaker, if only someone would ask … gee, Gloria, thanks for asking.
“Graduates, I am pleased and privileged to be here today. It is customary for a commencement speaker to be a superb and wise person — of which I am — and to offer you sage advice on what lies ahead in life for such splendid and fortunate young people as yourselves. I will begin by proffering this sapient — look up that word in the dictionary — uplifting piece of advice, particularly for the male graduates. Always remember throughout life to wear an athletic supporter as more responsibilities are thrust upon your young shoulders.
“It is not by accident that your completion of four intense and rewarding years is called a ‘commencement.’ It is the beginning of your lives as independent, educated citizens. Isn’t education a wonderful thing? It teaches you to worry about things you wouldn’t worry about if you hadn’t gone to college.
“As I gaze upon your sea of shining faces, I feel certain that you will fill your future to the brim with all the talents that are uniquely yours. An ancient philosopher, Larry King, once said, ‘Old men dream dreams; young men see visions.’ What lesson can we take from this wise and esteemed senior mentor of long ago? I believe his quotation permits all to dream the impossible dream — i.e., winning the lottery; be all you can be — i.e., quarterback for the New York Giants; to empower yourselves — i.e., eat your broccoli; get in touch with your inner selves — i.e., never forget to call your mother; feel each other’s pain — i.e., watch another graduate whom you hate get the job you wanted; and all the while look out for No. 1 — i.e., you.
“In addition, you will know no boundaries — like discerning where Queens ends and Long Island begins; never stop thinking about your tomorrow — like visiting your mother-in-law; exploring new worlds — like traveling on the Long Island Rail Road to the last stop; and boldly going forth where no one has ever gone before — like Staten Island.
“This much is obvious: If you are anything like I was at your age, you feel a mixture of hope and apprehension, partly because you are not sure how much longer my speech is going to go on. When you leave your parents’ homes and venture forth into the world, I hope you will reflect back on what happened here today — not on the ceremony itself, nor my poor words, nor on the depressing economy and the crushing debt politics has dumped on you, but what you yourselves have accomplished.
“You ask questions like ‘What will the future be like?,’ ‘What is the meaning of life?,’ ‘How can I make a fortune in pharmaceutical stocks in this depressed market?,’ ‘Why do we have to sit around listening to a commencement speech?’ Why?
“I know you look to me for wisdom and guidance. I suppose if there is one single message I would like to impart to you, it is to concentrate on what you want to be and go for it. You will be successful in life, unless, of course, you become the coach of the New York Knicks, become a politician trying to reduce the federal budget or, in your senior years, look for a comfort station in Flushing. Now go out into the world and prove that your student loan was not a bad investment. Land that one job you desire — except mine!
“Finally, class of 2010, I proffer three pieces of advice: Become rich, become famous and always keep sacred the holy days of Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar night and Grammy night. And to you parents, what will you do with the $30,000 you will not have to spend on college tuition next year?
“So, buckle your safety belts, floss your teeth, eat more broccoli and read my column. Thank you and good day to all. You may now kiss your parents.”
Contact Alex Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.