What graduation memories?

By Henry Passenger
It’s true confession time.
On Sunday I listened to National Public Radio’s acknowledgment of graduation time and heard a marvelous compilation of soundbites from commencements past.
Who was my graduation speaker in high school? I don’t remember. In college? I don’t remember. What did either of them say? I don’t remember. (For our 50th high school reunion, the committee had put together a packet of the class night presentations. Without that, my recollection of that day, now 60 years ago, would have been a blank. I still have it … somewhere.)
I’ve taken the liberty of combining Sunday’s NPR clips into an abbreviated commencement address.
“Board of trustees, distinguished guests… faculty, parents…..undergraduates and all people that just come to these things… I’m honored to be with you today… Not too long ago, I sat where you now sit… I’ll try not to belabor you with some of the standard rhetoric that is beloved of graduation speakers.
“…I can say that nobody knows where you’ll go in your life… Whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change, and that’s OK… But whether it’s this or something else, I hope you’ll pick a fight and get in it. Get your boots dirty, get rough.
“…There will come times in the lives of all of us when we’ll be faced with causes bigger than ourselves… Don’t be afraid, because there is no such thing as failure.
“…Nietzsche famously said whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What he failed to stress is that it almost killed you.
“…I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.
“…At the end of your lives, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.
“… Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home… We need your youth, we need your strength, we need your idealism. This is the time for bold measures, and this is the country and you are the generation.
“… And finally, wearing colorful Converse high-tops beneath your graduation robe is a great way to tell your classmates that this is just the first of many horrible decisions that you plan to make for the rest of your life.
“…Thank you very much and congratulations… Thank you… Thank you… Congratulations and God bless… May your future be worthy of your dreams.”
Those were the words of the late Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, the late Steve Jobs, Barbara Bush, Conan O’Brien, Benazir Bhutto, Oprah Winfrey and Bono.
How much of what they said did their audiences remember?
Quips ‘n’ Quotes: The late Erma Bombeck said, “Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents; they come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”

Henry Passenger’s column appears each Wednesday in the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at hbp35@sbcglobal.net

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