It’s graduation season. How many of us remember any of the graduation speeches given at high school, college, or beyond? For me, high school was a yawn, college was a drag. Graduate school was better—Anita Hill. (Wish I had every word she said on paper to reread.)
Graduates are so giddy from delight at being finished with the long haul of studies, and full of emotion (delight at being through with exams, regret at the cessation of parties and late-night nacho fests, and perhaps fear at the more sobering future staring them in the face), that it’s usually impossible for them to focus on or remember what was said to them on that day. I remember lining up for my college graduation, being handed a red carnation to drop at the feet of the trustees on my way to get my diploma (a gesture to protest the college’s investment in businesses that dealt with the then-apartheid South African government), and the popping sound as Irene Zuckerman, the last student to receive her diploma, uncorked a bottle of champagne and poured it on her head and the heads of those sitting near her. And that’s about it.
So here’s a challenge: If you were to write a graduation speech that’s worth listening to and even more importantly, worth remembering, what would you say? What’s required to keep the attention of kvelling parents, bored faculty, and spacy students? Where does the correct balance lie between substance and humor? (Yes, I said “humor.” Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here.) How short can you make it and still make you earn your imaginary honorarium? What do you have to say that would be of use to a bunch of kids about to be unleashed on the “real world”?
Now write one. Post it on your own blog, or email it to me at email@example.com and let me post (part or all) of it here. Pass this challenge on to other people, and post the challenge on your own blog, too. Let’s get these things written by June 4 (two weeks from now).