Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terms of Commencement


I'm what you might call an abstract thinker and I always have been. Years before the phrase, "think outside the box" was coined, I was doing it. My mother used to always say that I marched to the beat of my own drum... a drum that was out of beat with everyone else's drum. So, in that spirit, here is a thought I would like to drop on you.

It's graduation time and around this great nation of ours, people are graduating from high schools and institutions of higher learning. Most of the speakers are going to be the lions of the business world. (Are there any of those left? I'm just asking.) Politicians, athletes (both current and retired), a few musicians, fashion models, and I'm even told a rapper or two, will speak at these commencement ceremonies. The one thing all these folk will have in common is that they have garnered a bit of success in their chosen field.

A lot of them are where they are because they are just plain ol' lucky. They won't tell you that and nobody would dare think it but, in some cases, that is just the way it is. They were blessed with good looks, they were in the right place at the right time, and/or ran into the right person who pushed them along and that was that.

Now, of course, they won't ever admit to that in any commencement speech. They'll tell you that it was hard work, a never say "die" attitude, and total dedication to their craft that got them to where they are today! They'll also be looking at their watch and wondering if that check is signed when they finish their spiel.

The kids won't be listening... not really... because they will be looking at their watches and thinking about all the beer they are going to be drinking at their graduation party (I know I was). I can't remember what the speaker said at any of my graduations. Oh no, that's not completely true. When I graduated from Air Force Technical Training School (boot camp), Mr. Jimmy Stewart gave the commencement speech. Yeah, that Jimmy Stewart... the famous actor, who was also known as retired Air Force Colonel James Stewart to be exact. Colonel Stewart, if you're nasty!

Yes, I was all gushy and star struck. I can't tell you how many of his movies I watched in black and white when I was a kid and how many times I did a dead on imitation of the man that had my mother and grandmother in stitches, as well as a few friends. I still can't remember what he said at the commencement. I do remember shaking his hand at the end and that's about it.

My point to all of this is... why not have the kids listen to someone not so famous, that stumbled a few times in life? Give them a realistic look at what they might have to face out there in the "real world" that everybody whispers about but never really talks about. You know, because we Americans are so star struck and such celebrity worshipers, I don't know if the kids would listen any more than they do now... but, at least it would be authentic. (Although, I'd pay money to hear Snoop Dog speak at any commencement!)

Show them what could happen to them and give them something to think about. I know I learned a lot of my life lessons from watching the failures of others before me. It shook me up, gave me a reality check, and set me in the right path a lot more than the words of some politician, athlete, or entertainer speaking to me (before their scandal came to light) ever did. I know I'm a sick and demented individual but, don't laugh at me. Pray for me! That's just me. I'm somewhat of an odd sock anyway.

I can respect the success of a Bill Cosby, an Oprah Winfrey, and a Barack Obama. I am in no way trying to negate their real life success. What makes me and other people listen to them is that these individuals had a lot of failures and mis-steps in their lives before they became the personalities we know. And, in the case of all three, they are not afraid or ashamed to tell it. Their authenticity is what draws people to them and I'm not talking about people like them in this post.

I'm just saying, why not have authentic everyday people speak at these commencements to talk to the students about their struggles, their failures, and how they managed to succeed in spite of it all. They could even talk about how they haven't succeeded yet and are still trying to make it. This would be so different that it might make a student stop thinking about who is in the stands taking pictures of them, who is going to be at the after graduation parties, if they are (or aren't) going to get laid afterwards, and think about the life they are about to enter into soberly for just a minute... just a minute.

Then, they can go party like a rock star!

22 comments:

Arlene said...

Impossible!! I'm the 1st commenter today. Keith, I just got the BW's blog award notice and wanted to check in on his pop-pop blog, one of the best bloggers I ever read! That's you cuz.
Always thoughtful commentary. I think the graduates are not the focus at all for graduations. I think it's the school's opportunity to show who they can attract for public relations purposes. When our president went to Notre Dame his very presence got worldwide attention and the issue of abortion, such a critical issue to many was spotlighted. I don't think college administrator care who speaks or what they say as long as it hits the evening news in their town and better yet national cable news networks.
Have a great day, my writing brother.
PS-did you see my picture in yesterday's Inquirer?

James Perkins said...

Hey Keith,Having a problem acessing your blog this morning.
Funny Post as usual, yet thoughtful.

Simon Bastion said...

Was having a problem accessing quite a few blogs this morning.
Really, Universities don't care about the kids when they get commentors..They get them to bring attention to the school itself..

Sean said...

As usual, you are on point good brother as well as being humorous.

Toni said...

Good Post Keith..Having a process pulling up your blog and a few others this morning.

Angie B. said...

Was having a problem getting to your site today...Finnally did though... Such a funny post..I loved it and so true too!

Sunflower said...

The celebrity speech makers are there for the school's benefits..They could give a damn about the kids..You are so right and so funny at the same time too!

Grover Tha Playboy said...

Boyyy, you aint never lied..I graduated from Morehouse.. I was so high, I can't even remember who spoke at my commencement-lolol.

Cheryl said...

Something was wrong with your site this morning...I couldn't get on this. I'll have to go back now and read your post.

Brenda said...

So On point, this post as well as funny. You teach without being preachy..I love that!

Lisa said...

Good Post as usual!

Halo said...

I guess by now you know that there is something going on with blogger.
I couldn't pull either of your blogs or a few other people's blogs up this morning.

Vanessa said...

Who speaks at these commencements
has more to do with how much prestige and money they will get the school than anything else!

Tate2 said...

Word! This was a good one and funny too!

Swaggie said...

I love your realness Keith..You tellin it just like it is..in this case..Most folks won't say this even though they know it's true.

Captain Jack said...

I can't remember who spoke at my commencement either, but he was cute!-lololol

Jazzy said...

Another good post Fam..Was having a problem getting on your site this morning.

Beautifully.Conjured.Up said...

Great post!!!

I remember my speaker, but her speech was BORING. Sorry to say, but after 15 minutes of it, I was out and just ready to get my eat on and receive my graduation gifts/money.

Erin Michell said...

Looking back...I have no idea who spoke at my commencement. I was burnout with school, had just finished my last final the day before, and I wanted to relax. Having everyday "authentic" people speak would be a change, but I don't think the graduates would pay much more attention than they already are.

Angel said...

our colleges are stingy they would never pay for a star to come and talk to the kids....or perhaps times have changed.

I agree with you, they need to have regular people coming and inspring the children, not some foolish celeb!

Thoughts of a Southern gal said...

I had a problem getting to your blog yesterday.

I just read a horrible statistic this morning. Only 20% of graduates will find jobs. Sad!

Mizrepresent said...

Ah yes, it would be nice to hear from someone like the guy from the movie "Pursuit of Happiness", but i believe his life is inspirational and just showed how he struggled and educated himself into his position now. There are a lot of real-LIFE Coaches out there, but will they listen...unfortunately, most won't...most will only be thinking about the afterparties...and such. I also believe these type of speeches, this encouragement shouldn't just be dished out at Graduation...how about starting it at Kindergarten...and every single year thereafter...how about the teachers becoming these LifeCoaches. When i was growing up, they were our heroe's, they were the ones encouraging us to do better, to go farther, to reach for the moon and if it seems too far, or you can't touch it...grab a star!




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