My commencement address (assuming I ever give one)

imageTo the Class of 2016, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:

I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.

Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.

Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.” 

But you will sit quietly, probably cross-legged, and deal with it. You are now officially your own person — making your own decisions, embracing the rewards and accepting the consequences of those decisions — as you embark on a journey of independence in a world of your own making.

At least until laundry day, when you will return home to eat chocolate chip cookies while mom gets the Cheeto and pizza stains out of your favorite underwear.

That’s because having wisdom isn’t about knowing everything. It’s also about recognizing and acknowledging when you don’t. Just like getting those stains out, it’s OK to admit when you don’t know how to do something or handle a tough situation in life. A smart person takes ownership of the things they know; I wise person seeks the knowledge of others when they don’t.

When I graduated from high school in 1984, there was no Internet.

No Siri.

No Pinterest.

No Kanye West.

Therefore, the Class of 1984  was expected to know EVERYTHING. The pressure was tremendous! We hugged our parents goodbye and entered a dark, Google-less world. We were young pilots flying blind. Dead stick. Rudderless. Broken-winged. And lots of other euphemisms I am now able to Google for occasions like this. We had no choice but to rely on each other. We pooled our knowledge. Challenged each other. Together we advanced ourselves and society by having the courage to answer fundamental questions like: What would happen if we grew chia seeds on a clay pot shaped like ‘Mr. T?’

Truth be told, it’s human nature to want to know all the answers. At the same time, culture discourages us from admitting when we don’t have them. You’ve now spent the better part of your first 17 to 18 years of life receiving an education. Not so you’ll have all the answers, but have the courage and wisdom to ask the kinds of questions that will improve your life and, hopefully, the lives of others. This will take more than Googling. More than Wikipedia. Possibly even more than How-To videos on YouTube.

It’s certainly going to take a great data and texting plan.

However, most of all it’s going to take the kind of determination that got you here; sitting in these chairs; moments away from receiving you diploma; and still regretting that second bottle of Mountain Dew.

Yet, I look upon your faces and see my own hope reflected in them. When you leave here, be courageous and wise. Never be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers. Those who do are destined to a life of empty promises. Usually somewhere in our nation’s Capitol.

Always remember the feeling you have right now. The anticipation. The hope. The unlimited possibilities. It’s who you are at this moment.

It’s who you will always be as long as you allow yourself to be wise…





Published by

Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

44 thoughts on “My commencement address (assuming I ever give one)”

  1. Well said Ned. And I have always wondered how anyone finds their own hat after all are thrown into the air.

  2. This would have been very helpful and inspiring tucked into my packed luggage (grad gift from parents) when I was setting sail. Okay….less setting sail and more wading awkwardly into deep water, but it still would have been helpful…..and definitely inspiring. Who knows what I would have accomplished with your Commencement Address folded neatly in my genuine vinyl, 3 piece K-Mart luggage ensemble.

      1. Just because my luggage was already packed didn’t mean I was prepared; just unleashed….on an unsuspecting public. There’s nothing quite like an 18 year old with $500 in her wallet, packed, vinyl luggage and no inspirational Commencement Address to point her in the right direction. There was a lot of Pinball going on for a while. :o)

  3. Believe the word you were seeking was “mortified” … not “terrified” … sorry, you don’t generate terror, just smiles …
    Anyway, there’s a nice couple next door who home school their kids, ages 6 and 4 … would you be willing to address Mason’s kindergarten graduation? …

      1. that would be wonderful and this is a crowd that is pretty non-judgemental, maybe good for your first gig. they believe that i am a rock singer and lord of the dance irish dancer, so….

  4. The 80’s…too much hair, not enough internet and just the right amount of Kardashians. Good times. Good times. Great speech, BTW…makes me want to actually ginish something for once in my

  5. I believe you would hold the audience’s attention with this one — even if your children were part of it dressed in caps and gowns. No terror needed — although that whole thing about underwear stained with Cheetos and pizza leaves me a bit concerned. Ew. Fun with just a smattering of inspiration I hope you get invited to give the speech somewhere. 🙂

  6. It wasn’t much different in 1987, and I – for one – am grateful for the lack of Kanye.
    I love this commencement address. Well done, Ned.

  7. It’s amazing to me that we can remember the days without cable tv, internet, cell phones and iPads and somehow we turned out ok. In fact, I would go so far as to say, it is BECAUSE of all those things that the Millennials have the attitude they do and want everything right this minute instead of knowing what delayed gratification and work for what you want even means! Grr… my daughter is a Millennial and I didn’t raise her that way, but yet, she has the stereotypical attitude! WTF? And who ever said the world owed them anything????? Love your “address”! It’s spot on! 😀

    1. Thanks, Courtney! And you’re right. As parents, raising our kids to value having a strong work ethic without a sense of entitlement is almost impossible nowadays thanks to the message of “instant gratification” they receive every moment of every day. I’m GRRRing with you 😉

  8. This was hilarious and perfect, Ned! You hit on all the right points! I hope you do get to address a group of graduates sometime (preferably in this century). 🙂

No one is watching, I swear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s