Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My commencement speech to the Class of '17

May and June are the graduation times 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 '17. Now get out there and don’t fuck up my Social Security.


Peter J. said...

Re "Save your journal or private diary. In twenty years you’re going to get such laughs." Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids is proof.

VP81955 said...

Somewhere, Kurt Vonnegut is smiling.

Rick wiedmayer said...


AlaskaRay said...

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

I would give the same advice for girlfriends & boyfriends.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Clap Clap Clap

All true.

McAlvie said...

The only thing I would change is wearing a hat. So many benefits to wearing a hat, I don't know why people avoid it. Aside from sun damage and the risk of cancer from same, it keeps your head cool in summer and warm in winter, and keeps the sun out of your eyes while you are driving. Seriously, you'd be surprised how much more comfortable driving is when you aren't squinting from the glare. But I would tell those youngsters that there are hats other than ballcaps. Ballcaps are fine for playing ball or jogging. IRL, they leave the back of your neck exposed and, cancer again. Wear a hat that accomplishes something besides hiding your identity. And if you are going to wear one anyway, be a REAL redneck and earn some blisters.

Jahn Ghalt said...

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

Same with clothes.

and you won't give a $#!T "THEY" are laughing you may not even notice.

(FWIW, the daughter moved back in last night and I played for her ELO's New World Record for the first time in almost forty years. Damn strong record - no "laughter".)

Stoney said...

For me, this falls somewhere between Baz Luhrmann's "Wear Sunscreen" and National Lampoon's "Deteriorata". ("Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment,
and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance." 1972)

ADmin said...

You said it, man.

When I was a kid, around graduation and probably before, I thought the rest of the world was missing the obvious answer to EVERYTHING. I knew it all (except calculus) and it left me frustrated and impetuous. Now, every day that goes by, I realize I understand a little less than I thought I did.

And you know what? There's something calming and reassuring about that.

jcs said...

Live and work in a foreign country while you're still young.

Every once in a while take the time to carefully craft a letter.

Always buy cheese made from raw milk (unless you're pregnant).

Do not sugar-coat things for your children. Explain honestly. Be as straight-forward as you can.

Read the paper and vote.

Tom said...

Agreed on everything except the hats. Definitely take them off indoors (the baseline for a civilized society...) but outdoors? Wear them. My dermatologist (who has relieved me of two basal cell carcinomas) says one sunburn when you're a teenager can mean skin cancer by the time you're 50. I have no reason to doubt her.

Tom Galloway said...

Ken, you might like this sorta baseball themed Yale 2017 Class Day speech by Theo Epstein (transcript, not recording): https://theathletic.com/61845/2017/05/21/transcript-cubs-president-theo-epstein-tells-yale-graduates-to-keep-their-heads-up-and-rally-together/

MikeN said...

'fall in love when you're 30' means you are having kids at 35 or so. Besides potential health problems, it takes a lot of energy to deal with kids, and you have more of it in your 20s.

Mike Barer said...

Very inspiring! :)

Bryan Thomas said...

Comedy traffic school was awesome. Fun way to burn off the points. I did mine at the Improv or Comedy Store, can’t remember which. And Steve Perry from Journey was in there too, I kid you not. So hey, meeting my favorite rock star, laughing away a ticket, I call it a win!