My Graduation Speech

It is college graduation season. On a local radio news show, they mentioned some speakers who were giving graduates their send off speech. Traditionally, politicians would have littered any list of graduation speakers. The list I heard was trending away from the political realm. Among the speakers mentioned were a retired NFL kicker and Darius Rucker, the singer from the band Hootie and the Blowfish.

Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie and the B...

Darius Rucker (Photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain)

I like Rucker. He comes across as a personable guy and he co-wrote “Only Wanna Be With You.” He and Hootie also recorded an absolutely wicked version of the Bill Withers hit “Use Me.” I would invite Darius to speak based solely on how hard he rocked “Use Me.”

But the bigger news is that if singers and NFL kickers have wrested control of the graduation speaker market from politicians, it is only a matter of time until obscure bloggers are holding forth before graduates. Once obscure bloggers get their chance, it is a short drop to me.

Public speaking is fun, but I like being ready before I do it. So I have gotten a graduation speech ready. If someone named Dean or Chancellor calls and inquires as to my availability, I will be able to respond that my calendar is clear and my address is ready.

Here is what I’ve got…

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…

Chancellor, Dean, Chancellor Dean, Dean Chancellor, Guests, Family, and Graduates of the Class of Insert Year Here.

I’m honored to stand before you today. So much so, that I went and bought big boy clothes. Seriously, head to toe, new clothes. I’m not usually a dress up guy, but when in Rome or insert college town, do as the Romans or insert school athletic team nickname here do, right?

After being asked to speak, I took the liberty of reading a few issues of The insert campus newspaper name here. Apparently there was some controversy over my selection. There were a lot of comments in that fish-wrap like “who is he and why do I care what he has to say?” Those comments brought me to the theme of my talk – “Be Quiet”.

You’re all here to celebrate an achievement. Pat yourselves on the back. I’ll be quiet and wait while you do.

Congrats to you. Welcome to the real world. We’ve been waiting for you. Some of you took a year or two longer, but as a member of the five-year club, I give a special welcome to those who took their time and did it right.

A moment ago, you patted yourself on the back. Make that the last time you do that in public for a long time. You’ve completed your education, but learning begins here. The world is a vast classroom. Time spent patting yourself on the back is learning time lost. Be quiet, listen to the lessons of the world, or risk being run over by them.

You’ve learned much over the past 4,5,6 or, dare I say, 7 years. There is someone out there in the classroom of the world who knows how your knowledge fits in to what you’re meant to do. That sort of someone doesn’t bother talking over you when you’re busy talking about how bright you are; they move on to someone else. Be quiet. Hear those folks as they enter your life. Be quietly thankful and they will stay.

I pray that you all find the things that you’re good at and that fulfill you, work-wise. When you find them, go do those things. Be good. Be the best, better than anyone ever has been. Be quiet.

You see, being the best you can be speaks for itself. If you must boast about your skills or anything else, you’re likely not as gifted as you think. Be quiet. Let your work do the talking. It will say just what you allow it to.

When you enter a room, be quiet. Take in the greetings of your friends, return them in kind. People enjoy someone they can like for being themselves more than they like an entertainer.

Now, I’m a big fan of being quiet. That doesn’t mean it is always appropriate. You’re going to need a job. Someone will want to interview you. You’re going to have to sell yourself to them. Maybe you should get a book about job interviews. Be quiet, and try not to move your lips when you read that book. Whatever you do, don’t be quiet in your interview.

More importantly, don’t be quiet with those you love. Start that now, by thanking your parents and everyone who helped you get here in your robes and funny hats. I’ll be quiet and wait while you do.

Alright, that’s enough. Be quiet and let me finish. I know those robes are a bit warm and some of you are itching to get to a kegger or something.

Thanks for being quiet and hearing what I had to say. Go be what you always wanted, try hard to be that in just the way you envisioned. Be happy, be exhausted, be exhilarated, be disappointed. Take a minute at the end of every day to be quiet and thankful.

You’ll be fine.

So, There You Have It

Victoria Principal on the red carpet at the 39...

Ms. Principal(Photo by Alan Light CC BY 2.0)

I’m hanging out my shingle as a graduation speaker. Ms. Chancellor, Mr. Dean, feel free to get in touch. In fact, since I’m somewhat new to the business, I’m not above taking a call from Mr. or Ms. Principal.

We will be able to work out the particulars. Yes, Darius Rucker is out there. I suppose he is pretty good. But I don’t carry all that baggage that comes with being “known” and neither does my price. Call me.


27 Comments on “My Graduation Speech”

  1. Laura says:

    Are you sure you’ve thought this through? If you become a commencement speaker, you have to sit through the whole ceremony, including the excruciatingly boring part where the graduates get their diplomas.

    My graduating class managed to make ours a little more entertaining. When the university president made his speech, he said something like “99,473 people have graduated from this university before today, and there are 1582 people in this graduating class, so someone here will be the 100,000th graduate.” So we counted, and when number 100,000 got his diploma, the graduating class went wild. Apparently the counting wasn’t loud enough for the audience to hear, though — my mom asked me afterwards who that person was that we all cheered for so loudly. She was expecting to hear a heartwarming story about someone who’d overcome some terrible hardship.

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh man, the president invited that one, didn’t he? You all were focused. I’d have lost count at 40-something.

      The diploma handing out portion will get easier as I do more graduations. You see, I will be racking up the honorary Phd degrees and my price will go up with each one. I will be screaming “show me the money” behind my placid smile.

    • I’m with Laura. Some of those ceremonies are painfully long.

  2. Z.N. Singer says:

    That…was actually really good. If I were a chancellor, I’d be checking google maps to see how likely you were to show up.

  3. Damn! My commencement speech blog post is only half done and I haven’t gotten to the funny part yet! Oh well…I’ll trash it and get started on my Fathers Day one.

  4. I like this advice but I’m going to ignore it just long enough to say this: This is one of your best pieces ever.

    Also, to anyone who’s considering inviting him to speak — and after this, you see why that’s a good idea — you might consider giving him an honorary doctorate. He deserves it but he’s being quiet and not patting himself on the back.

  5. We Found Him Captain! says:

    No kidding, that speech is really good and nails it in record time. You would earn a special bonus if the graduates agree to “pass the hat” and give you the proceeds for breaking the record for best and briefest commencement speaker. Maybe you could start by doing police academy graduations.

  6. Debbie says:

    This is every bit as good as most of the graduation speeches I’ve had to sit through! Not long and pompous, just the right amount of levity and seriousness. You’ve got my endorsement — now pat yourself on the back!

  7. spencercourt says:

    I can’t recall who spoke at my graduation in ’74, so obviously whatever he or she said left little impression on me. But then, I am not easily impressed… 😉

    • omawarisan says:

      I don’t remember my high school speaker. I know William Raspberry, the Washington Post columnist, spoke at my university graduation. He was probably good, but I don’t remember.

  8. In my neck of the woods we had Obama, and Dick Costolo CEO from Twitter….Impressive, I’m sure but good home town advice might take these young upstarts a whole lot further towards their goals…. Be Quiet, and appreciative is advice they should all take out into the world. Go for it!

  9. Be quiet. It’s obvious to me now that my dear beloved HJ did NOT graduate from college, nor did his wife. Excellent advise.

  10. That is quite possibly the best graduation speech I have ever read. Along that vein, one of my favourite quotes is, “If you really want someone to listen just…whisper”.
    OK, I will be quiet now.

  11. pegoleg says:

    That really is a good graduation speech. Just to hear it, I’d almost be willing to sit in the football stadium along with 50,000 other sweating parents who just missed their kid crossing the stage because of the dip-wads in front who stood up to leave when their own kid was done.


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