Saturday, May 13, 2006

Greetings & Salutations 2004

To members of the Class of 2004, I bring you greetings and salutations. It is a pleasure to be here today at the Harvey Hadley Bible College and Finishing School.

I jumped at the chance to be your commencement speaker when your president, Dr. Marvin Filbin, made the offer yesterday afternoon.

I know I wasn't your first choice. But I'm sure you must realize that Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Alex Trebek, Cameron Diaz, P. Diddy, Marcel Marceau and Frankie Avalon are busy people with crowded schedules. Maybe you'll snag one next year.

As to myself, I never turn down an invitation that includes a free lunch.

After President Filbin called, I immediately scanned the Web for commencement speeches, hoping that I could pilfer one or at least lift a few choice phrases.

The speeches are many, but the themes are few.

They usually include an exhortation to follow your dreams; a plea to keep your youthful optimism intact; and an admission by the speaker that the older generation has screwed up the world and that we are counting on you to right it.

I agree heartily with all these observations, except the last. I plead not guilty to screwing up the world.

I assure you, it was screwed up before I got here. So don't blame me.

Blame your parents, as always.

As to following your dreams, I urge some caution.

When I was in college, a number of my dreams violated social and sexual norms. Do that in the real world and you will run afoul of various provisions of the criminal code.

So much for the big picture.

Let us get down to helpful tips.

When doing laundry, be sure to pay attention to the care labels. They will never lead you astray.

If someone promises to double your money, run from the room screaming.

Don't overdo the tan. It looks good now, but at 50 you'll look like an old saddle.

Bleach, applied with an old toothbrush, is effective at removing stains from the grouting of bathroom tile.

If people say, "Trust me," don't trust them.

If people say, "I always try to be candid," what they mean is: "I am about to say something that will personally offend you."

Always wear seat belts, and, if you don't, be sure to fill out an organ-donor card.

Don't have children if you are under the age of 25. They will drive you crazy.

The day will come when you will profoundly regret the tattoos.

Don't have children if you are over the age of 25. They will drive you crazy.

I noticed in some commencement addresses that the speakers mention "passing the torch" to a new generation.

That is, I assure you, only a figure of speech.

We are the baby boomers. We do not intend to pass the torch to you or anyone else for a very long time.

Thanks to proper diet and various medical advances, we plan to live well into our 90s.

The way I calculate it, the torch won't be passed until sometime around 2045. At the earliest.

It is only fair to warn you now that when we do pass on the torch - or when you pry it from our cold, dead hands - you may not want the darn thing.

For starters, you'll be saddled with a lot of debt. We plan to bankrupt the Social Security fund. Ditto for the Medicare fund. (Those darn medical advances sure are costly!)

Those tax breaks we've been enjoying? Guess who's going to pay?Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves.

Other speeches I read urged graduates to "go forth." I wish they were more specific.

Where should one go forth to?

If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have gone forth. I would have stayed behind.

Maybe collect a few graduate degrees. Hide in the dorm.

College was fun, once you exclude the going-to-classes part.

If you insist, go ahead and go forth.Don't say I didn't warn you.


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