Most years around this time I sit by the phone, well, OK, it’s in my back pocket so I always sit beside (or on) it. This is the month where I am waiting on schools to call and invite me to wow soon-to-be graduates at their commencement ceremonies. I have wisdom accumulated from wearing out the soles of countless pairs of Weejuns at newspapers from one coast to another . . . and I am willing to share.
Most years that phone never rings. Well, OK, it did last year. And I hope the graduates and those in attendance at Diapers to Diplomas Daycare Graduation 2018 enjoyed the talk as much as I did.
However, the clock is ticking and it appears another year is going to go by without a call. Why do I bother? You see, about 45 years ago I proudly became part of the 100th graduating class from Noblesville High School. I gave a speech then. Some 350 or so students and a whole lot of Moms and Dads and Grandmas and Grandpas listened to yours truly wax poetic about John F. Kennedy, hopes, dreams and yadda, yadda, yadda. My point? Not only can I share knowledge gleaned from a lifetime in newsrooms (mostly playing poker in the darkroom) but I have actual experience . . . on stage . . . at a microphone . . . talking to graduates.
Does my phone ring? Does a bear play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in the woods?
So once more I will share said speech below – administrators and boards of education, my number is in the book (well, it would be if there were such things as phone books anymore). If you have a last-minute cancellation because the scheduled speaker fell ill or had a flat tire, give me a holler.
(Just let me clear my throat . . . )
Students, faculty, parents, friends and honored guests, let me begin by saying that reading this is saving you from sweating to death in a hot gymnasium. So give me four minutes and I’ll give you the ability to avoid dressing up and caking on the anti-deodorant.
Graduates, you have more tools at your disposal than any generation that’s come before in the history of mankind. You have smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and Carrot Top. Sorry. You have more computing power in your back pocket than the entire space agency had in 1969 when they put a man on the moon.
That was also the decade when graduates (and dropouts) transformed the world. They forced America to change the way it treated people of color. They stopped a senseless war in southeast Asia. They made women’s rights a reality, not a topic of conversation.
What amazing tools did they have at their disposal? Smartphones? Computers? Text messages? FaceBook, Instagram? Nope, none of that. Heck, Al Gore hadn’t even invented the internet yet.
How did they do it? They did it by burning draft cards and bras. They did it with megaphones and posters. They did it by getting involved and making their voices heard.
You have an ability to communicate that is beyond their wildest dreams.
They changed a world. What are you going to do?
Seriously. What? Are? You? Going? To? Do?
Look, today’s a big day. You’re going to hear a lot about new beginnings and starting a new chapter in your life. Hallmark is making a killing off such thoughts. Today, my young friends, is the beginning of the beginning of where we transfer ownership of your life from mom and dad and teachers and coaches to . . . ta-da, you!
Whether that transfer is completed today or a few years from now doesn’t matter. Today’s the official day it begins. And where it ends up – and this is the cool part – only depends on one person . . . ta-da, you again! You are going to be the lock-stock-and-barrel owner of it all. You get to figure it out. You, yourself, that person staring back at you in the mirror. It’s all you, baby. That’s not good news or bad news. It is what it is – just like life.
Remember all those lessons mom and dad, teachers, coaches, pastors, grandparents have been trying to teach because someday they aren’t going to be around you all the time.
Guess what?
Today is that day.
For better or worse, decisions you face now are pretty much yours.
It’s a new beginning, a new chapter. It makes Hallmark happy.
So once again, what are you going to do?
Tell you what, I’ll help you out. Here are a few secrets.
You want to be a success in this life? Be positive. Yeah, that’s it. Be positive. The world doesn’t need another whiny-ass, disgruntled Negative Nancy or Ned who blames everyone and everything for their problems. Look around. Those people are everywhere. When someone asks you how you’re doing, say wonderful. When someone grumbles about the old battleaxe (sorry, it’s a term us senior citizens know), tell them how lucky you are to have the partner you’ve got. You don’t have to stick your rose-colored glasses up someone’s south side. But you can and should be the one who isn’t a downer. Be the one who finds the positives.
Next, understand that people are going to screw with you. You can choose to be a victim or not. Entirely up to you. Hey, you can choose to fight back, choose to ignore it or whatever. All answers have an impact. Just advice from an old guy, but don’t choose to be a victim. At the same time, there’s no need to arm phasers and get ready for WW III every time someone crosses your path. Let the little stuff go. Don’t let someone else, especially people you don’t know, have one iota of control in your life. Understand that the moron driving the moped who caused you to slam on your brakes doesn’t get hurt by your blood pressure going up drastically. You do. Maybe the driver who cut you off in traffic deserves your ire. Or maybe they’re a parent who just found out their child has cancer and they’re not thinking clearly.
That’s about it. Two tips. No top 10 list. Nothing complicated. Two things that aren’t going to win you the lottery. Life, at least most good ones, is about hard work. That’s not a bad thing, but you’ll figure that out soon enough. You’ve got the magic box in your back pocket. You have technology. You live in the greatest information age in the history of mankind. You’ve got the chance to make your own statement here. What are you going to do? It really is up to you.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com.