[Author’s note: Since 1997, it’s been my tradition to give a graduation commencement speech – whether I’ve been invited to or not. This year, in light of the Coronavirus quarantines, I gave my speech remotely. Below are excerpts from this year’s stirring oratory. You might want to have a Kleenex nearby. – TEJ]
Congratulations, Class of 2020. I am deeply honored to be your commencement speaker. Due to the current health crisis, I almost had to bail and ask my close personal friend Barack Obama to fill in. Luckily, I am virtually here for you via Zoom, though I long to be strolling on the hallowed grounds of your renowned university, checking out the Tri Delts.
I greet you from my couch in my man cave, draped in formal commencement speaker garb – cap, gown and fuzzy bunny slippers – filled with pride for what you have achieved – well, most of you, anyway. Accompanying me is my trusty feline, Bonkers. Wave to the camera, Bonkers.
First a point of business. While a cap and gown are optional for this unique graduation ceremony, a dress code of boxers and bras is a tad too informal. So, for those of you with your video cameras on (Bonkers has counted 67 so far), I would thank you to please don a bathrobe.
Our nation is living through a nightmare unlike any in living memory – more upsetting even than the 2011 breakup of The White Stripes. I have faith that we will survive, providing we stick together (albeit six feet apart) and remember to WIPE and WEAR. Wipe down everything you touch and wear a mask. Oh, and remain in your parents’ basement until a vaccine is found – which according to my doctor’s latest estimate looks like October 2023.
Speaking of parents, join me in acknowledging all the sacrifices they’ve made over the past two to three decades, preparing you for this moment. From teaching you to ride a bike to helping you erupt that volcano in 4th grade (let’s face it, your mom did most of the work), to chewing out your English teacher for not giving their angel a B+, your parents were always there to support you. And they will continue to do so, for God knows how much longer. Let’s give these heroic folks an enthusiastic round of applause – by clicking on the clapping hands icon at the top of your screen.
Today we reflect on the past four years – or seven in the case of you accounting majors who flunked statistics, changed your major to astronomy, bailed on that and committed to astrology, only to discover there have been no job openings for astrologists since…, well, since ever.
Whether you pursued a degree in engineering, psychology or Medieval French Poetry, there is one thing you all have in common: a future with limitless opportunities in exhilarating enterprises, such as delivering groceries or restocking the cleaning products in Costco – both of which are booming these days.
Disappointment abounds. No hanging out at the mall, no concerts or bar hopping. Such a bummer that the final frat party blowout was cancelled. Nice try with your good pitch citing the germ-killing benefits of ingesting massive quantities of beer. Consider celebrating with your mates via Zoom. On the positive side, you won’t need a designated driver to get home.
Thanks to the economic collapse (and your impressive 2.3 GPA), that dream job you were hoping for in Silicon Valley has evaporated, like a puff of smoke, carried off by the wind, elusive, never to be found…. I apologize. I was thinking of my book deal that just got canned. Even worse, your graduation trip to Italy had to be scrapped because of the pandemic. My advice: Don’t underestimate the pleasures of a hometown staycation. I hear some pubs and parks may reopen later this month. And Frisbee golf is making a comeback.
It’s entirely normal to have pangs of dread about what is to come, given your lack of any discernible skills and a college debt that exceeds the GNP of Cameroon. Add to that the looming beef shortage, threats of nuclear attack from North Korea, the alienation of our NATO allies, and the specter of Trump’s re-election, it’s no wonder you’re a tad on edge. However, I say, “Have hope. Think of your glass as half full” – okay, maybe 10% full is more accurate.
Though your situation may appear bleak, there are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful about the world today – if you happen to be wildlife. It’s an incredible time to be a peacock or mountain goat. They can roam almost anywhere they like lately.
As you embark on this next exciting chapter of life, I countenance you to go out and make a change. And by “go out”, I mean, go outside to your backyard and get some fresh air. And by “make a change” I mean your clothes. You’ve been wearing the same T-shirt and sweatpants for three weeks. Take a shower, while you’re at it. I can smell you from here.
Eventually you will change the world. But for the moment, just change your expectations instead. I hear Amazon is hiring forklift operators.
Graduates, I encourage you to remain positive – unless we are talking about COVID-19, then by all means, I pray you’ll remain negative. Don’t forget to wash your hands, use Purell, and practice safe social distancing. And think of all the rent you’ll save by living in your parents’ basement for the next 24 – 36 months.
In closing, my advice as you stare into the abyss that is your future, is … um … uh … Sorry. I got nothing. Nada. I’m just glad I’m not graduating this year. That would totally suck. So, good luck. There’s a 57% chance things will get better … someday.
Now please take a second to click on the RATE ME button. If I earn 4.5 stars, the university will email me a $100 Target gift card.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Go make yourself useful. You can start by emptying the dishwasher. It’s not going to empty itself. [CLICK. The speaker has left the meeting.]
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020