It's that time of the year, again. Not crying time - all due respect to the late Buck Owens - but time for celebrations, confetti, screaming at the top of your lungs that you're done, really done - with school! And, time for commencement addresses.
I understand why colleges court celebrities (and government officials) to give commencement addresses. It's to please the parents of all the graduates. I wonder if the graduates are that influenced by the commencement speeches. So far this year, from all the news coverage, every celebrity from top to bottom, male and female, has mouthed the same platitude: "Find something you love, and do it."
Oh, please. That's an open invitation for these wild kids to - live at home until they're 40! Because one thing they love is: free food and rent!
I don't dismiss the advice. Doing what you love is a respectable goal. The problem is - figuring out what you "LOVE" isn't as easy as these commencement talking heads would have you believe. Plus, if you do know what you love - finding a way to get it to pay your bills is a whole lot trickier. too. Innovation is the name of the game, but the game, as graduates will discover, is really more than getting the most $$ from the Milton Bradley boardgame they played as a kid.
No doubt the commencement talking heads were spurred on by today's bottom-up, customer oriented, citizen journalist society we live in. No doubt, they felt confident saying, "Be passionate about something - take that passion and build a future on it --" or some other drivel, born out of the on-going media attention paid to blogs, MySpace and the new MySpace killer (says who?) TagWorld. No doubt these intelligent, well-traveled, so-connected individuals were sure they would get the loudest applause from their audiences by playing on each person's need to be counted. That includes the parents.
The applause - I venture to say - is seldom for the speech. The applause is for the ending of the speech - that long-awaited moment the graduates can throw their caps in the air, scream in delight, hug each other, and run amok. And, the parents? Well, they might be applauding the speech - some of them might even turn to each other and nod. "Great speech," might be showing in their eyes, if not actually coming from their mouths. All the while they'd be watching their offspring behave like actors in an Animal House movie. And, ultimately, everyone would drift off to - graduation parties, picture-taking, traveling home. Back to real life where - being able to get employment doing what you love - probably means hanging out at Starbucks, with your laptop. Or, getting a gig on The Apprentice.
Ok, I've criticized some good people - and, to be honest, I've attended some excellent graduations (though not this year). I have just a bit left to say... If the nightly news presents me with one more outtake of a graduation ceremony where some celebrity starts mouthing, "Do what you love..." I'm definitely going to consider a boycott of the nightly news.
Okay, rather than just criticize, here's what I would have said, had anyone asked me to give a commencement speech:
"Congratulations on staying awake long enough to attend this ceremony, because I know most of you were out partying last night. <pause of cheers from graduates, the little devils> Thanks all around to the faculty of this honored institution, to the esteemed parents of this graduating class, and to all the cups of coffee these kids consumed during finals. It was coffee you consumed, wasn't it?
"Let's talk about long days at a computer - building your network of friends and family - oh, far beyond anything you have today. Let's talk about long days at home - for the entreprenuers who have visions of grandeur in their eyes - days spent juggling work with feeding the baby, walking the dog, taking your mother's phone calls. You WILL take your mother's phone calls, else...she will show up at your door. Let's talk about lives full of chores. Full of work. Full of responsibility. All the normal things we human beings call living.
"In an effort to prepare you for what's to come, let's step outside of the office or the home, and consider what YOU'RE going to contribute to society as a whole. You, the graduating class of 2006.
"For the first time in history, each and every one of you has a chance to make a difference. Because each and every one of you is connected to hundreds of other people who value your opinion. Each and every one of you has influence - singly and collectively. Influence on how politics is played, how business conducts itself, how much social responsibility you are willing to shoulder. Each and every one of you, by utilizing your blogs, your social networks, your fondness for multiple conversations across multiple networks, can make a difference in a world that is floundering to discover a way to feed itself, care for itself, and build strong human relationships. With a few strokes of your keyboard, you can change social constructs. You can alter the future. You can command a new world order that puts people ahead of profits, that puts women and children in a place of strength and well-being, that is not driven by the concept of power for power's sake. This is YOUR time. A time of growth, strength, and humanity - for the people, by the people, of the people.
"Each and every one of you, while you're searching for the "thing that you love," as you've been advised by greater minds than mine, needs to know one thing. One important, all consuming thing.
"That is isn't about what YOU love. It isn't about what I love.
"It's about us. It's about the Community of Man. And woman. [please, feminists, don't throw tomatoes at me - the community of man includes us all; semantics aside]
"IF you can keep that thought present in your mind's eye, as you travel down whatever path lies before you, if you can remember that it isn't about you, or me, that it's about US...the community of man, you will easily discover the something you love, whether outright, or over time. And, the community of man will be the better for it.
"You and me and all of us."