Monday, June 25, 2007

A Word of Advice

It's graduation season. Students will swelter in full-length robes made of nonbreathable fabric while their parents bake, doting and dehydraded, in the summertime heat.

The care and feeding of the planet will be passed on to a new generation by commencement speakers, most of whom were entrusted with the same responsibility, only to screw it up big time.

Those hard-earned diplomas will open the door to exciting and rewarding careers. In medicine, for example, you will heal the ill and be paid hansomely for it. In journalism, you will expose ills and get paid like a fork lift operator.
Lord knows, I've been through a bunch of these ceremonies, both as a participant and as a spectator.

One of our daughters "walked" in high school, twice in college, once in law school and once when she was sworn into the bar. Her tuition was exceeded by the amount spent on new clothes for each occasion.

And each and every ceremony that I sat through as a graduate and a parent was accompanied by a speech in which grads were wished well in the real world and reminded that this place was where they learned to think.

Aside from the general tone of the remarks, I remember absolutely nothing. Not one word.

Perhaps that was because I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. Or maybe I was just in the wrong place and the wrong time.

But there have been plenty of pearls of wisdom passed on at these affairs. What follows is a few favorites culled from a seemingly inexhaustable library of graduation speeches found on the Internet:

"Be as bold as the first man or woman to eat an oyster." - Shirley Chisholm, congresswoman.

"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad." - Theodore Roosevelt.

"When you leave here, don't forget why you came." - Adlai Stevenson.

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!" - Andy McIntyre.

" You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - John Wooden.

"It is clear the future holds great opportunities. It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o'clock. - Woody Allen.

"During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. "Absolutely," the professor said. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy." - Joann C. Jones.

"If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm. - Vince Lombardi.
"Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed." - Erma Bombeck.

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." - Nelson Henderson.

And perhaps most telling:

"Education is the best provision for old age." - Aristotle.

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