My Address to the Graduating Seniors – Coronavirus Edition

My Address to the Graduating Seniors – Coronavirus Edition

[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]

“Dear students, faculty, staff, and mascot of this great institution. It is indeed an honor to almost be here with you for this video commencement address. Thanks for attending – I know you’d rather be playing Call of Duty.“

“Dear students, faculty, staff, and mascot of this great institution. It is indeed an honor to almost be here with you for this video commencement address. Thanks for attending – I know you’d rather be playing Call of Duty.“

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.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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

My High School Commencement Address: “You’re All Whiners, I mean Winners!”

My High School Commencement Address: “You’re All Whiners, I mean Winners!”

[The following are excerpts from a recent high school graduation address given by Tim Jones. The name of affluent, private school has been withheld to spare the institution further shame and embarrassment for having selected Mr. Jones to deliver the address. – TEJ]

Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.

Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.

I would like to thank everyone who made today possible. The esteemed faculty, administrators, guidance counselors and even the disgraced former assistant coaches, for everything they’ve done to help all of you reach this important milestone.

I would also like to acknowledge the countless contributions of your self-sacrificing parental figures, by whom I mean your mom, dad, step-dad, other step-dad, and nannies.

Perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge the makers of Ritalin and Adderall for helping you kids stay focused enough to complete an impressive 37% of your assignments.

Congratulations, [REDACTED] High School class of 2019. As I look around this dimly lit auditorium and behold a sea of mortarboards atop designer sunglasses, I am struck by all the untapped potential.

I ask you, the co-leaders of tomorrow, to indulge me as I impart a few pearls of wisdom. First, though, I sincerely apologize if my musings distract you from the text messages about tonight’s rave party at Nate’s. I hear it will be “totally lit” because his parents just left for Italy.

You will soon leave the halls of this fine institution behind. Some of you will embark on the journey called “life- how to avoid it”, thanks to your parents’ untraceable bribe that got you into Stanford. Well done, mom and dad. You have four more years to avoid facing reality – that is, unless you are expelled freshman year for never attending class. You might want to rethink your longstanding policy of playing League of Legends till 4a.m. (LOL!)

For those of you not fortunate enough to possess incriminating photos of the Dean of Admissions at the college of your choice (or any college), no worries. There are countless other career options awaiting you after your graduate from [Fill in the blank] Technical College: Horse Inseminator, Sewage Diver, Deodorant Tester, Roadkill Removal Specialist… The world is your oyster, as in oyster shucker. Go for it.

Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!

Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!

Then there’s the rest of you – you know who you are. You decided college is not for you because you know everything already. Of course, you do. But three months from now, in the off chance your well-thought-out career plan is not unfolding as hoped, and your dreams of making millions as a day trader living in your parents’ basement are not panning out, please drop me a note when you apply for the coveted cashier position at McDonald’s or Burger King. Tough decision. My advice: Hold out for Mickey D’s. Better fries.

Soon into your university experience, you will be required to declare a major. The pressure is enormous, having to make a decision. So many enticing options: Medieval Astrological Studies, Auctioneering, Floral Management, Bagpiping…. One thing is certain: whatever you choose, it will be the wrong choice, which you will not discover until 3 semesters and $45,000 later. When you end up jobless with $100,000 in college loans due, don’t freak out. Remember, your parents co-signed the loans, so technically, they’re liable. Problem solved.

Graduates, I must forewarn you: there will be adjustments as you go forth. The biggest will be that there is no longer a helicopter pad for your parents. Your college professor will not take a call from your mommy explaining that your allergies were acting up and you could not finish the term paper. Your boss will not engage in a text dialogue with your daddy about why you deserve a raise for not missing a day of work in three weeks. You’re in the big leagues now.

I realize some of this might come as a disappointment, but out in the real world, things are a little different. By all means, congratulations on those trophies for Toddler T-ball participation and your 4th grade project on the planets (even though you left out three of them, including Earth). Cherish the Gold Star for picking up most of the crayons you threw across the classroom in 7th grade. And your cogent debate team argument that Lil Wayne is a greater influence in the music world than the Beatles, well, that’s one for yearbook.

I admit, the fact you’ve memorized the lyrics to every Ariana Grande song is pretty “dope” and should count for something. But then, I’m a fan. However, I’m here to tell you that the world out there may not value your incredible childhood “achievements” as much as your parents did.

There are no Smiley Stickers for showing up to work on time. And while it might not seem fair, you probably won’t get that corner office in Chicago with a view of the Pacific when they promote you from Administrative Assistant to Administrative Specialist. Be patient.

These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.

These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.

Your unlimited self-confidence is impressive. You can thank your parents for that, because ever since you were in the womb, they told you incessantly how amazing you were and how you could do anything you set your mind to.

I hate to break it to you, kids. Actually, you’re not quite as special as you think you are. And here is a word you’ll need to get used to hearing: No. As in, “No, we’re not going to install a hot tub in the employee lounge to inspire your creativity.” And “No, you can’t take four days off next week to attend Coachella with ‘your posse.’ We’re on deadline.”

The truth of the matter is, in the real world, not everyone is a winner. Some of us end up losing. If you don’t believe me, google “Gary Busey.” You’re not a real winner if you can’t handle losing. You need to learn how to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and push onward. (Readers, I apologize for the previous words of profound wisdom. They came from left field.)

Students, in closing, it’s time someone told you the truth about how life beyond your parents’ protective cocoon actually works. It isn’t always fair. Mom won’t be there to tell your boss to stop being so mean to you for assigning so much work. And success might take a little more effort, persistence, and time than it took for you to break your record score in Grand Theft Auto.

Hey, I could be wrong. Maybe you are every bit as perfect as your parents have protested for the past 18 years. But before you show up at that important interview for the killer job as a video game tester, you might want to remember to say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” give a firm handshake, and make direct eye contact. Oh, and take the ear buds out. 

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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 2019

A Parent’s Commencement Address to His College Graduates

A Parent’s Commencement Address to His College Graduates

[Author’s Note: Both of my daughters graduated from college this year. This is my commencement address to them on reaching this important milestone in life.]

Today marks the official start of your lives as college graduates. Don’t think of this as the date when your parents stopped paying for your cell phone plan and car insurance. Think of it as a new beginning when you discover the joys of balancing your own checkbook and deciding whether to spend your money on rent or the latest designer dress.

This day calls to mind my favorite Latin quote: Tibi gratias ago Deo et non ex se ad replete FAFSA forma. Translation: “Thank God, I won’t have to fill out another FAFSA application.”

As you move through life, you’ll encounter people who you’ll feel are treating you unfairly – most notably your parents. But we are only doing this to help you in the long run – unless we’re just trying to yank your chain. However, I still stand by my rule about not leaving your curling irons on your bed and plugged in when you headed off to middle school each day. I apologize for letting my selfish desire to prevent our house from burning down interfere with your hairstyle fashion sense.

You have both accomplished so much. Emily, I’m not just talking about how you managed to stay awake through your 8am accounting class sophomore year – although, kudos on that impressive feat. I never could have done it.

It seems like just yesterday that you entered college with no idea what you wanted to do with the rest of your lives. Just four years later, you’ve already narrowed it down to “no job that requires operating a fork lift.” 

You’ve both matured in so many ways – from the quality of your tattoo selections to your taste in men. Aren’t you glad you didn’t elope with Stoner Steve when you were a freshman, Rachel? I am so proud – and relieved.

Now it’s time to give back. You can begin by giving back the camping gear you never used.

My advice to you is to look for a career that will stoke your passion. Rachel, you considered career options at a very early age. At age seven you declared you wanted to be the world’s first ballerina-astronaut-fireman-kitty cat petter. If you still wish to pursue this, I believe in you. But don’t discount too quickly your other passion of becoming a cardiology nurse as a fallback, if the fireman-cat thing doesn’t pan out.

As for how to pursue a successful career, perhaps the best advice I can give you is to study the many decisions your father made to further his career – then do exactly the opposite. I’d hate for either of you to look back at life when you’re my age, facing the stark reality that your career peaked at age 27 and you ended up throwing away your dreams to pursue the life of a humor writer. It still keeps your mom up at night.

Don’t hold back on pursuing your goals due to fears or anxieties. Press forward in spite of them – like you did so boldly, Emily, when at age six you overcame your fear of scissors by cutting off all your hair. For months afterward, people kept asking why we never mentioned that we had a son.

As you move through life, do not judge others too harshly – the way you concluded by age nine that I was the lamest, worst dad in the entire world. Now that you’re mature adults, I think we can all agree that Allison’s dad would hold that distinction.

Be careful with how you spend your money. Be sure to set aside at least 10% of your income for long-term savings. And remember this important investment advice: BUY LOW. SELL HIGH. It took your father far too many decades to realize it wasn’t the other way around.

Pay attention to those for whom life may not have shined so brightly as it has for you. While loaning a sorority sister your fake ID so she can buy beer may have seemed like a giving gesture at the time, perhaps you can stretch a little further in the future by helping others with slightly more pressing problems. Here’s a thought: you could donate your out-of-style Lululemon collection.to the nation of Burkina Faso. I’m sure you have enough to clothe at least half the population.

On this momentous occasion, I implore you to seek your destiny – unless you think your destiny involves joining the circus. As you look ahead to your future, ask yourself these important questions:

  • How can you make a positive impact on the world?
  • What can you do with your life that will make you want to get out of bed each day?
  • Where can you find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000 a month – because no, you can’t move back home to avoid paying rent. Besides, your bedroom has been converted into my man cave.

As your father, I want to thank you for the many life lessons each of you has taught me – like the importance of patience – and learning not to say the first thing that popped into my head when Rachel hosed down the family room (because “the pillows needed a bath”) or when Emily took a Sharpie to draw a giant mural of flowers on the living room wall (“I’m an artist – just like Mommy!”).

And now you’re all grown up. How did that happen so quickly? My little “angel monsters” have blossomed into two amazing, self-confident, and determined young adults. Now follow your dream – just so long as it doesn’t include asking anyone if they want fries with their order.

In closing, my counsel to you both is always to look at life with a grateful heart. I am deeply grateful for the joy each of you has given me as your dad. When you were young, every night at bedtime, when I would tuck you in, I’d kiss you on your foreheads and tell you: “I love you to the universe and back.” I still feel that way. Thank you for two decades of bedtime stories, soccer practices, gym meets, and butterfly kisses.

Congratulations, college graduates. Your mom and I are enormously proud of the people you’ve become. It’s your turn now. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to figure out what that means – because I have no clue.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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 2017

My advice to the graduating class of 2011: Don’t Tweet Your Junk.

My advice to the graduating class of 2011: Don’t Tweet Your Junk.

Greetings, Class of 2011. My, don’t you all look so grown up in your elegant caps and gowns and iPods blasting out Death Cab for Cutie at full volume. It seems only yesterday that you were stumbling around in Huggies and toddler booties and iPods blasting out Raffi at full volume. Graduation Day is upon us for millions of American college seniors like you. As has been my tradition for the past 17 years about this time, this week’s post is my annual Advice to you, the College Graduating Class of 2011.

My advice to you? Don’t pay attention to anyone who tries to give you advice…. except for the advice I am about to share, of course. It’s important that you make your own choices in life. So make good ones. In looking back on the choices I made in my youth, I realize I made some poor ones now and then. If I had it to do over again, I wished I hadn’t taken three years of Latin in high school. I’m not Catholic so becoming Pope is probably out of the question. So exactly when would I ever have used it? Never.

I also should never have taken Post-Modern Latvian Studies in college. That [#bleep#]-ing bastard Professor Yuri Švābe was a cruel old son of a bitch. I wish he would die a painful, wrenching death for totally messing up my GPA… I mean, er, um, I found him to be rather draconian in his grading methodology. Perhaps most of all, I deeply regret rooming with Tony Markowitz of Monmouth, New Jersey for two years in college. Not only was he a complete slob and never did the dishes, but he always smelled like bass and routinely ate my Lucky Charms cereal without asking. I urge you to learn from my youthful mistakes.

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