Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Lousy Time to Make a Point

It’s graduation season.

All across our fair land, speakers ranging from Nobel laureates to ninth grade history teachers will advise begowned and mortarboarded grads on how to negotiate the road ahead.

Their speeches will be delivered earnestly and all will be meant to inspire and challenge. There will be a poignant metaphor here, a poetic turn of phrase there, an exhortation to seize the moment, to make the world a better place.

Left unsaid will be the fact that previous generations, challenged to do the same things, somehow dribbled the ball out of bounds.

Most of the words will be forgotten soon after they are spoken, lost in the euphoria of the moment. Someone once remarked that the life expectancy of graduation speech is about 15 minutes.

Graduation day, it seems, is a lousy time to make a point. It’s a time for celebrating, not navel gazing.

And that’s a shame. There are inspiring words being spoken at graduation ceremonies that are worth hearing.

For those whose attention mechanism may have been in sleep mode while a speaker tried mightily to motivate you, we offer snippets of some really smart speeches we have read over the years.  Next time you run into your local journalist, thank him or her for being there to jot them down:

 “The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.” ---Jon Stewart.

“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.                 ---Will Rogers.

“Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while and look at people’s faces.”       ---Amy Poehler.

“… our challenge is to live the final stanza of a song you have heard or sung hundreds of times … land of the free and the home of the brave!”  ---Anita L. Defrantz.

“Truth eludes us if we do not concentrate our attention totally on its pursuit.”                ---Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“You men here are Adam. You women are Eve. Who hasn't thought a lot about Adam and Eve? This is Eden, and you're about to be kicked out. Why? You ate the knowledge apple. It's in your tummies now.” --- Kurt Vonnegut.

“So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it.” ---Bill Watterson.

“Now I usually try not to give advice. Information, yes, advice, no. But, what has worked for me may not work for you. Well, take for instance what has worked for me. Wigs. Tight clothes. Push-up bras.” ---Dolly Parton.

“...and fear is the opposite of love... Fear is what blinds us. Fear is corrosive. Fear makes us hold back. It whispers to us, tells us that we'll fail. It tells us that our differences are too much to overcome. Fear locks us in place. It starts fights. It causes wars. And fear keeps us from loving.” --- John Legend.

“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 Bomback.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ---Sir Edmund Hillary.

“I want to congratulate you all upon your graduation from the University of Maryland College of Journalism, and wish you luck as you prepare to embark on exciting careers in telemarketing or large-appliance repair." ---Gene Weingarten.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” --- Maya Angelou.

“To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say, 'well done.'  And as I like to tell the 'C' students:  You, too, can be president.” --- Former President George Bush.

“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.”  --- Edward Koch.

“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.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t. Respect their knowledge and learn from them.” --- Bill Nye.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. ... And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” --- Rear Admiral William H. McRaven.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”--- Yoda, from a galaxy far, far away.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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