He didn't get invited ... again
Monday, May 06, 2013 10:00 PM
As the calendar turns from April's showers to May's proms, I begin my annual camping trip. No, there's no tents, RVs or woods involved. No siree. I camp out by the telephone and wait for the call inviting me to be a graduation speaker. Sit there every year. Waiting. Working Sudoku puzzles. Waiting. Polishing shoes. Waiting.
You get the idea.
Hard to believe that the phone hasn't rang yet, so once again I'll share the wisdom and knowledge piled up over a 30+ year newspaper career. I mean seriously, you just can't get this wisdom anywhere else . . . except maybe cheap fortune cookies. Really cheap ones.
Greetings soon-to-be-grads, administrators, teachers, honored guests, parents, grandparents and little brothers and sisters who would rather be just about anywhere else right now. The good news for all of you is that you are not actually sitting on a hard, wooden bleacher in a gymnasium that sorely lacks good air-conditioning. (You know, when schools spend 985 bajillion dollars on building a school you'd think somebody could figure out how to cool a gym. Just saying.)
Let me start out by telling you how this speech is going to end - with three curses and a wish. But first, let me offer a few pieces of advice for our young friends sitting there in caps and gowns. (In a day and age where suits and ties and business formal attire is becoming less and less important you'd think that someone would invent graduation attire that isn't ready to fall off your head if you move too fast and doesn't make you sweat like you're in a sauna.)
I digress again.
OK young people, pay attention. This is the last lecture you get before you officially complete all the education you're going to get in this building . . . and I promise it won't be nearly as long as Mr. McBride's math class.
First, learn some life skills.
You already know this, but you are coming of age during an era of instant information. That's the good news. On the flip side, no generation has ever come along with less real-life experience . . . you know, things that aren't computer related. Your grandparents and your great-grandparents could fix an engine, build useful items from scratch, put food on the table that they grew and raised, can food . . . on and on.
When it comes to technology, you have great substance. But when it comes to life, you have no depth.
Next, think beyond today.
No guarantees that what are givens today will be givens tomorrow. This is true in your personal life as well as the world around you. There was a point when my generation assumed long distance would always be operator assisted. We didn't dream that one day we'd have personal communicators like William Shatner used on Star Trek. Heck, there was a point when my generation was the TV remote control. When my dad wanted the channel changed, he told me and I got up and turned a knob. Things change.
Be proud of where you live
Maybe I shouldn't add my own interpretation here, but I think it's good to be proud to be an American and a Hoosier. Look around boys and girls. This school didn't get here by accident. This city didn't either. Everything didn't just happen. A couple of hundred years ago folks didn't just wake up and find they could pretty much DO ANYTHING THEY WANTED TO DO. They didn't have freedom when it came to religion, politics, society . . . and some didn't have any freedom at all.
Good men and good women decided they didn't like it and did something about it. For some, it cost them something. Their lives.
Don't take THIS for granted. It's not trite. This country has done a lot for you. Just be a little proud of it in return.
Choose to be happy.
In a year or 12 you might get married. When you do, be happy. Too many people talk about the ball and chain, about the old lady, about how things suck at home. Don't be that guy, that girl. Be the one that talks about how happy you are, how you married your best friend, how great life is. It absolutely will not be accurate all the time but it keeps you a step above most of your peers. They won't say it but they'll be envious.
Disrespect? Get over it.
The idea of disrespect seems to be a big deal today. I've heard too many young people moan that someone has disrespected them. Some of you reached adulthood 20 minutes ago. Some of you have not. Either way, you haven't had a chance to earn respect yet. Respect isn't given. My grandparents earned respect by winning a world war and keeping a nation running through a depression. Really, none of us have lived up to that yet. Go out and do something to earn respect. You'll find it lasts a lot longer that way. And don't confuse politeness and manners with respect. (Just an aside, but it wouldn't kill some of you to Google "politeness and manners.")
Don't categorize yourself, gay, straight, transwhatever. What you do in the privacy of your home, behind closed doors, is your business. What you do in the bedroom doesn't define who you are. Besides, some of us just don't care.
Don't be the person who delights in other's misery. But don't be so empathetic that someone's toothache ruins your day.
Honor your mother and father
First, it's a commandment. If you believe in God then you need to get your head around the verb command. It's not a suggestion. Second, you're going to have friends, acquaintances, associates, contacts, connections, gangs, posses, the guys and the like all your life. Facebook and Twitter allow you to have "friends" all over the world. Why try to make your mom and dad like everyone else? They are not your friend. They are your parents. You only get one mother and father. Make the most of it.
OK, I told you this would be short. So let's wrap up with those curses and a wish.
According to the Internet - and we all know they can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true - the Chinese had three curses that began with, may you live in interesting times. The second one was may you come to the attention of powerful people and the last one was one that we're most familiar with, may you get what you wish for.
Fools and village idiots will hear those three things and not consider they can be wrought with danger. For better or worse, you are graduating in a very interesting time. Nothing you do will change that. The last one is the scariest, getting what you wish for. However, my wish for all of you is the second one. I indeed hope that if you do come to the attention of powerful people, it's not the IRS.
The world is more yours today than it was yesterday. Welcome to the club.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. It's possible with both his children out of the house that he gets the urge to tell young people what to do and today is most likely an example of that. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted to schedule graduation speeches at firstname.lastname@example.org.