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Graduation Day: The Untold Story
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I auditioned, but I didn’t get the part.
I’m speaking of 1978, when I was bitterly disappointed not to be chosen as graduation speaker for my high school class (Marshall County, Tennessee).
My script no longer exists, but I seem to recall it containing pearls of wisdom such as “Consider a life-long career in pay phones,” “Hire a reputable architect to build an addition to your house if you aspire to owning a home computer” and “Cherish your classmates, because these times - like Rocky Balboa - will never be seen again.”
Ah, graduation. It has become quite the growth industry, as we celebrate graduation from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school, college and more. And each step usually involves travel, rental of appropriate outfits, parties and gifts. Wasn’t it poet Walt Whitman (born 1819, died...hey, you’ve already gotten your diploma -do you think you really need to know this or rope climbing or...?) who said, “I hear America KA-CHING-ing”?
To be sure, graduates need to be recognized. They need to be recognized for their unique talents. They need to be recognized for their perseverance. Hmph! For some of them, it would be nice if graduation invitation recipients could recognize them, PERIOD. (“The girl in the picture - is that the step grandniece who never thanked me for the pony or the tickets to Disney World? This boy: isn’t that my former podiatrist’s girlfriend’s paperboy?”) Yes, at commencement time, the words “fixed income” are like blood in the water for sharks.
Teachers need to be recognized as well. Yes, give thanks to the educators who taught you the deeper meanings of words such as “respect,” “cooperation” and “conviction.” (Speaking of conviction, the less said about the absent Mr. G. -- who taught the entire community the meaning of the word “statutory” -- the better.)
It’s easy to become envious at graduation time, as you survey all those optimistic young people reveling in their glory days. To be fair, some of them probably peaked early and enjoyed their glory days when they finally quit eating library paste. Or at least the cheaper grades of library paste.
It’s easy to become misty-eyed looking at the grads and remembering the not-so-long-ago days when they all aspired to be cowboys or astronauts or ballerinas. Now they all want to be CONSULTANTS to cowboys or LOBBYISTS for astronauts or COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS for ballerinas. Misty-eyed? No, I’m crying with FEAR.
Graduation speakers deliver tons of hoary homilies about chapters ending, making a better world, making education a life-long endeavor, remembering your roots and all that. Too bad none of them ever warn you about how swiftly you graduate from “One door closes and another opens” to “Now why the heck did I walk through the door into this room?”
College graduations have been in the news lately; many universities are uninviting celebrity speakers because of their alleged political incorrectness. One philanthropist was banned because of hate speech. (“But I just cleared my throat.” “Yeah, well, that’s offensive to the phlegm-deprived, scumbag.”)
In closing, this exercise has jogged my memory and resurrected one other tidbit from my undelivered graduation speech: “Whatever temptations and travails life brings to you, always be yourself. Well, duh. Forgive me for stating the obvious. I mean, what else are you going to do? Steal someone else’s identity? Boy, I crack me up!”
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.