Monday, June 23, 2008

My commencement speech to the Class of '08

June is the graduation time of year. I guess a hundred years ago those commencement speakers were inspiring and offered thoughts and insights that were new and fresh. But now, Jesus! Be your own person. Never give up. You have a responsibility to society. Success comes from within. Show courage. You can make a difference. Set aside time to smell the roses. Let faith be your guide. Blablablablabla.

I’ve never been asked to be a commencement speaker and that’s probably a good thing because here’s some of the advice I might give:

Live at home with your parents as long as you can. Otherwise you’ll have to find a job. Rents are high. And then there’s laundry, food, and the family big screen.

Know that the music you think is so cool now will be laughed at by future generations.

Same with clothes.

And don’t follow your current favorite group around the country for the next thirty years. That becomes sad year one.

If you are going to honor your dear departed kitty Fluffy with a tattoo make sure all your subsequent pets are also named Fluffy.

Eat bad foods. You’re at an age when you can get away with it. And eat them at midnight. There’s plenty of time in the future for watching your carbs, eating your vegetables, avoiding red meat, and laying off the Yodels and Ring Dings. Soon enough you won’t be able to eat a bite after 8:00 without spending the night in the porcelain canyon . Do you want fries with that? Damn right you do!

Don’t buy SUV’s.

Practice safe and frequent sex. Have many romances and then fall in love when you’re 30.

Go back and study the history of your chosen field. Things actually happened before 1990.

Don’t blame your parents for everything. Your peers screwed you up just as much.

Sleep. It’s better for you than Red Bull.

You can no longer take an "incomplete".

Prepare yourselves. There will come a day – in your lifetime – that they will stop making original episodes of THE SIMPSONS. I know you don't believe me but it's true.

There’s a special bond having shared the school experience together. Stay in touch with your classmates. Even the ones you’ve slept with.

Don’t invest money in video stores.

Read novels that aren’t graphic.

Join communities that aren't virtual.

Save your journal or private diary. In twenty years you’re going to get such laughs.

Dream big but always have contingency plans. And then have contingency plans for your contingency plans.

Keep your student ID card. Use it to get into movies cheaper.

Guys, don’t wear hats. You’ll have plenty of time for that later once you’ve lost your hair.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life. There’s a good chance the job you'll eventually want hasn’t been invented yet.

Never take comedy traffic school.

Buy your alcoholic beverages by the glass or bottle, not the keg.

And finally -- Be careful when you say you want your generation to change the world. My generation said that and did – we made it worse.

Congratulations to the class of '08. Now get out there and don’t fuck up my Social Security.


The Milner Coupe said...

"And finally -- Be careful when you say you want your generation to change the world. My generation said that and did – we made it worse."

Copy that, 10-4.

Maybe we should tell 'em to change it back.

Anonymous said...

That thing about not wearing hats? Totally useless advice. Hats have zippo to do with losing your hair--the hair lose gene actually comes from dear old mom's side of the family and generally skips a generation. So, take a good look at grandmom and watch that hairline of hers. It'll be a good indicator of what yours will look like in the near future.

Malachy Walsh said...

Love it.

By Ken Levine said...


Don't wear hats because you now have hair that you can show off. That won't always be the case. I know you don't lose your hair by wearing hats.

Anonymous said...

i wish someone would have said things like that at my graduation. would have kept me interested to hear at least one person say the truth at last!

Anonymous said...

I'm class of '08, and I just moved out to Hollywood with one of my best friends. I'm living the hope-to-make-it-in-the-tv-writing-world life, and my friend starts acting school in the fall. We definitely feel like statistics right now, and we've mocked our commencement speeches so many times, and yours was hilarious. Thanks for the thoughts!

Anonymous said...

I can not agree that our generation made things worse. I wouldn't return to the 1950s for anything. Our generation (for the uninitiated, Ken and I are 3 and a half months apart in age) made a world where gay marriage is legal (at least in two states, and that's a big start) and a black man or a woman can actually become president. A world where 3 out of George's 7 words now are spoken on TV in prime time, and the rest are on cable at night (Okay, George and his generation did a lot of that.) And where, on TV, gay people and black people and brown people and so one exist, and even star in shows. We invented Viagra. We legalized all sex, widened who could marry whom, and also made it so you didn't have to marry, by ending the idiotic demonization of "Bastards".

Some things are worse, but more thngs are better, and we did it. We ended a war and tossed Nixon out.

And I like wearing hats. I just hate how my hair looks when I take them off.

Bitter Animator said...

There are novels that aren't graphic?

You're talking about William Shatners autobiography, right? I'm definitely going to get to that soon.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have you speak at my middle kid's kindergarten graduation next year; I think this would go over nicely.

Anonymous said...

Show of hands for those who think D. McEwan needs to start a blog. Anyone?

Mary Stella said...

That's a much better speech than the one the President of the school board gave at my nephew's recent high school graduation. The man's remarks were supposed to be brief. He went on for 15 minutes explaining how life changes by comparing it to television shows throughout the decades. Like the high school seniors of '08 have a clue about Father Knows Best. To illustrate changes in women in business he compared the Dick Van Dyke show to the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

No, he didn't use M*A*S*H and AfterMash to make any point.

We sweltered in the bleachers praying for him to finish. His twin daughters sat with the rest of their classmates in their caps and gowns, probably praying to suffer heat stroke so they wouldn't have to listen to him any more.

Alicia said...

Ken as always.... amazing!

stålar said...

Great advice! I've been living by these rules for some time now, finally I feel justified in living off my parents spending all my money on imported Belgian ale.

Anonymous said...

Eat bad foods - 30% of you aren't fat yet.

Roger Carroll said...

Ken I can't not believe that skinny kid that brought me the weather and scores (which I allowed you to read before Gary Owens had you on the air))has a daughter who just graduated from Northwestern.
You will always be that very bright tall lanky talented kid'
A fan roger carroll

Sarah Sickles Coward said...

Now, THIS is the commencement speech that I'd have wanted to hear, instead of the Cheney photo-op that my graduation was. Yuck. Yours was infinitely more entertaining and didn't involve stumping for Bush!

Chris Riesbeck said...

Not to be mean-spirited, but I thought Simpson episodes had stopped being original several years ago.

Saj said...

loves it.

Anonymous said...

You might want to change the Simpsons reference. It's somewhere in the 70s for this season, so it's possible that the young people to whom you speak will recognize you as being the incredibly old fart you are.

As am I, as am I, I hasten to add.

Anonymous said...

"Don’t sweat it if you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life. There’s a good chance the job you'll eventually want hasn’t been invented yet."

Truer words have never been written. I'm still waiting to figure out what I want to do with my life and I'm 39!! There is a bit in the Baz Luhrmann song along the same lines that ends with, "Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life… the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t."


Max Clarke said...

And remember that acceptance speech at Tony Awards. If you go into the forest, it's a good idea to wear something orange.

Anonymous said...

Mary Stella,

That is hilarious! Some Presidents are deep thinkers. Bush is a deep TV watcher. Does he think O'Bama's wife's name is "Sapphire"? Very funny.

I type up Tallulah Morehead's blog for her, as she is techno-drunk.Once in a while, one of my own thoughts makes it's way in.

Unknown said...

Love it Ken. Mostly the stuff about how what you think is cool now won't be so cool to the next generation.

I look forward to the day when some of these kids look at the "fashion" they had and say "WTF were we thinking?" Particularly that pants hanging all the way down your ass thing the guys got going on. At least in the 80's we didn't have our ass crack hanging out! We just had big hair and big handled combs sticking out of the back pocket. Now THAT was cool! Oh and the high top tennis shoes with the laces undone. That was cool too!

Richard said...

I look forward to seeing this forwarded thousands of times via e-mail, but incorrectly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut or George Carlin.

yoo hoo said...

I forwarded this to my 17 year old daughter that graduated on Friday the 13th...nothing bad happened either.

Beth Ciotta said...

"Dream big but always have contingency plans. And then have contingency plans for your contingency plans."

Priceless. Then again, they're all priceless, Ken. But that one? Really, REALLY pricelsess.

Anonymous said...

"Never take comedy traffic school."

Were it to be followed universally, this advice alone would be sufficient to bring peace to the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

d mcewan, you know, even with this newfangled thing they called google, I should've found that before commenting. So I'll just pile on and bitch about now having yet ANOTHER blog added to my feed reader. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

(long time reader, first time comment-leaver).. I graduated from uni a month ago and wasn't able to attend the ceremony. Thanks for the commencement speech! I love this blog for many reasons but most of all because it's honest.