When Commencement Speeches Attack



With June comes graduation, and I always wanted to do a commencement speech. I don’t know why. I’m not that good at public speaking, and I’d guess a graduating class is one of the most impatient audiences a speaker could have.

“Dude, I’ve been stuck here for twelve years. Let me out, tonight’s the party!”

We can only hope that guy isn’t a college grad.

I think there’s some kind of legal requirement for graduation speakers. They have to hit on all the stuff about everything that’s ahead of you, huge milestones, your life can be great if you aren’t so drug-addled that you forget to use birth control … I haven’t heard that last specifically, but it’s implied.

If I did give a speech, I’d probably feel duty bound to say those same things. But I doubt I’ll be invited anytime soon: I’m living proof of what happens if you get out of high school and don’t apply yourself. No college degree, no succeeding in my chosen professions, no film crews following me around … by 21st Century standards, I might as well be living in a cardboard box.

Oh, sure, I’ve had a job since I was 21 and I’ve never been arrested, but how do you turn that into a reality show?

So I won’t be invited to do commencement speeches, and that’s fine, because I don’t think you get paid for those things. Just the same, after years of real life experience, there might be useful things I can pass on to today’s graduates:

First of all, listen to people who have years of real life experience. These would be the same people you spent your teen years not listening to. In some ways they can’t help, because they’ve turned cautious. They remember the terror of diving into a strange new world, but not the exhilaration.

In other ways they can help, because they’ve turned cautious. They understand the value of a retirement plan, owning instead of renting, understanding a world you think doesn’t affect you, and using birth control.

If you think I’m stressing birth control too much, you definitely need to listen to the cautious people. Also, Google “how much does it cost to raise children?”

Here’s another good piece of advice you won’t listen to: You’re totally don’t get that expression, “you only live once”.

You scream “YOLO!” and then drag race down Main Street, take off on a road trip with no gas money, or chug down so much booze that you don’t remember all the “fun” you had depositing half-digested nacho chips on your girlfriend’s new hipster boots.

If you can’t remember having fun, does it count as fun? Well, maybe it does to whoever posts the highlights on YouTube.

See, if you only live once, then doing stupid, dangerous things for no reason means you could die, and not come back. So if you only live once, you should take a minute to pick and choose your fun. Maybe something with just as much speed, but no illegality … and maybe more safety restraints.

At this point none of the graduates would be listening to me anymore, so I’ll pretty much say whatever I want:

Don’t do anything—ever—that gets you compared to a Kardashian.

Strive to not star in a viral video. We live in a world where people laugh at you, not with you. Laughing along with them does absolutely nothing to make you look less stupid to, say, potential girlfriends or employers.

On a related note, don’t downplay the value of potential employers. In real life it’s possible to party your life away, but only if you die really young.

On another related note, don’t die young. Yeah, sometimes the world sucks, but it’s the one you’re in … and it doesn’t suck nearly as much as you think.

If somebody offers you some great new drug and you notice they look like a cross between a mummy and the “before” photo in an acne commercial, run away screaming.

Sometimes screaming can be good for you.

Finally, here’s one of the most important ideas you’ll ever learn: Learn. Yeah, college is good, but educating yourself is just as important. Look at it this way: If you get into an argument with someone and realize they’re ignorant, it means you’re not. It’s a much better idea to recognize ignorance than to wallow in it.

And that would be my serious moment, if I got to make a speech. After all, you only live once.


Speech tip: Pretend you know what you’re talking about.
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